A group of 174 female former employees of Birmingham City Council have won a Court of Appeal decision on equal pay claims.
The employees, who worked as cleaners, cooks, catering and care staff, were aiming to recover compensation for bonuses they claimed they were excluded from. The bonuses had handed out to employees in traditionally male-dominated jobs, such as refuse collectors, street cleaners, road workers and gravediggers.
In 2007 and 2008, female employees of Birmingham City Council were compensated for years of underpayment. However, only staff who were still in the job or had left within six months were eligible, since the limitation period for an equal pay claim in the employment tribunal is six months.
In December 2010, the High Court in London agreed that these claims could be heard in the civil courts. Birmingham City Council appealed this decision.
The Court of Appeal, in upholding the decision of the High Court, has made it clear that it is possible to bring an equal pay claim in the civil courts, for which the limitation period will be six years.
Chris Benson, partner at Leigh Day and Co, the law firm that represented the former employees, said: “The decision could lead to many other claims coming forward as, for decades, male council workers could earn thousands on top of their salaries in bonuses, despite being on the same pay grade as their female colleagues.
“In some councils these inequalities have only recently been phased out and in other cases the inequalities still exist.”
A spokesperson from Birmingham City Council said: “We are disappointed by the judgement and are currently considering our next step, which could include an appeal.”
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