Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. The scandal of millions not paid enough to live on (Observer)

Archbishop of York John Sentamu takes a stand on low wages.

2. Parliament needs to wake up about banking (Sunday Telegraph)

Liam Halligan wonders how vital reform of the financial sector has been shunted into the political silly season.

3. Ignore the hype, Britain's recovery is a fantasy (Observer)

A pitiful rise in GDP is nothing to celebrate. The economy is weak and dysfunctional, says Will Hutton.

4. The Tories are smiling but their problems haven't gone away (Observer)

Andrew Rawnsley finds Conservatives lurching from extreme despair to irrational exuberance.

5. On Trident, we're still fighting the Cold War (Independent on Sunday)

Danny Alexander restates the Lib Dem position of nuclear deterrance-lite, although he doesn't call it that.  

6. David Cameron, social reformer, takes on the web pornographers (Sunday Telegraph)

Matthew D'Ancona casts the Prime Minister as a moral crusader for the digital age.

7. David Cameron listens to Sam. Pity he won't give more women jobs. (Observer)

Gender descrimination is rife at Westminster, writes Catherine Bennett.

8. Google is a good target for Ed Miliband, Lynton Crosby isn't (Independent on Sunday)

Pick fights with people the voters have heard of, advises John Rentoul.

9. The Crosby show rekindles Tory fighting spirit (Sunday Times)

Adam Boulton joins the chorus of admiration for the galvanising powers of David Cameron's campaign strategist ...

10. The scandal of David Cameron's new spin doctor (Sunday Mirror)

... while John Prescott is unimpressed.

 

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.