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Council workers win landmark case over equal pay

A group of 174 women have won a landmark case which effectively extends the deadline for making equal pay claims from just six months to six years.

The women worked for Birmingham City Council in traditionally female jobs such as home helps, cooks and cleaners. They received a basic salary.

Men on the same grade in traditionally male jobs such as refuse collectors, street cleaners and grave diggers also received a basic salary but unlike the women, they also received bonuses.

Some of the council’s female employees took legal action to assert their rights to equal pay and were awarded compensation by an employment tribunal in 2007. This left women who had ceased working for the council at that time in a difficult position.

The regulations state that equal pay claims to employment tribunals have to be made within six months of the discrimination taking place. The council argued that the 174 women in this current case, who had not made a claim within six months of leaving their employment, were therefore prevented from taking any action.

The women tried to get round this by applying to have their cases heard in the High Court.

In 2010, the High Court ruled that it could hear equal pay claims. This meant the women could pursue their claims as long as they were within the more generous six year time limit.

Birmingham City Council appealed against the decision but the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of the women.

The ruling opens the door for thousands of other employees to bring equal pay claims dating back up to six years.

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