Landmark equal pay ruling suggests “huge implications” for thousands of women
A legal victory by 174 Birmingham women in the Supreme Court could change the face of equality pay in Britain.
The female council workers proved the council had breached employment laws by not giving them the same benefits or level of payment as their male counterparts.
The case is significant because it has extended the legal time limit for making such a claim against one’s employer from six months to six years, as the women in question left their jobs from 2004 to 2008.
The council originally tried to block the claims from going to court, saying they should be processed in employment tribunals, which only have a six-month time limit. This would have meant that many of the women would have been disqualified. However, the women were instead permitted to take their case to the Supreme Court, allowing them to file against events that took place long ago.
The claims of the 174 women are estimated to be worth around £2 million, sparking worry that taxpayers will have to foot the bill if more similar claims come forward in both the private and public sector.
Chris Benson, of law firm Leigh Day & Co, released a statement revealing he has already seen a surge in similar cases with drastic financial results: “There’s about another 1,000 people who have contacted us, so that’s probably another £10 million, but across the country in local authorities and in the private sector it could be tens of millions.”
“This is a great day for equality and for all those women massively underpaid over many years within public and private organisations. Birmingham council should now do the decent thing and settle the claims. They saved money by underpaying ex-workers for so many years, and so should now stop wasting taxpayers’ money fighting court cases they cannot win.”
The equality pay complaint comes after it was revealed the UK has slipped down two positions to 18th on the international league table for women’s equality. The fall is due to the low numbers of female ministers in the Conservative government following the recent reshuffle, and also because of the decrease in women working in ministerial positions from 23% to only 17%.