Equal Pay Battle Won in Birmingham

Former council staff in Birmingham have won a court ruling on unequal pay. The 174 women have been told they can make claims for compensation through civil courts.

170 former Birmingham City Council employees could now launch pay equality compensation claims in the High Court after winning a Supreme Court battle. 

In November 2011, the Court of Appeal said scores of cooks, cleaners, catering and care staff previously employed by the City Council were entitled to launch pay equality compensation claims in the High Court. 

The city council challenged that decision in the Supreme Court -but on Wednesday the 24th of October a panel of five justices dismissed the appeal by a majority. Judges heard that these women were among female workers denied bonuses similar to those handed out to employees in traditionally male-dominated jobs such as refuse collectors, street cleaners, road workers and grave-diggers. 

The court was told that, in 2007 and 2008, tens of thousands of pounds were paid to female council employees to compensate them. More payments have also been made to women who took cases to an employment tribunal. But only workers still employed or who had recently left were eligible to make claims in a tribunal. 

Those who had left earlier were caught by a six-month deadline for launching claims. 

To get around the deadline, the women started actions for damages in the High Court, which has a six-year deadline for launching claims. The city council attempted to have those claims struck out, arguing that under equal pay legislation such claims could only be entertained by an employment tribunal. 

Birmingham City Council have released a Statement:  

Equal pay litigation until now has always been pursued in employment tribunals as these tribunals are experienced and specifically trained in dealing with such claims. In addition, there are very limited situations where costs follow the losing party, whereas in the civil court costs almost always follow the losing party. 

The council is reviewing this judgement in detail before considering its options going forward and will be making no further comment at this stage.

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