Equal Pay Claims allowed to proceed in Civil Courts

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The Supreme Court has held that 174 former employees of Birmingham City Council may continue their claims for equal pay in the High Court.

Equal Pay Employment Law High Court

Claims for equal pay are usually brought in Employment Tribunals. However, here claims must be lodged within 6 months of the termination of the employment in question.

In the case of Birmingham City Council v Abdulla, the Claimants were all former Council employees. They had all left the Council’s employ between 2004 and 2008 and the time limit for bringing the equal pay claims in the Employment Tribunal had passed.

The Claimants therefore lodged their claims as breach of contract claims in the High Court, where the time limit for bringing such claims is 6 years.

In the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, the Council sought to strike out the Claimants’ claims arguing that it was more convenient to hear the cases in the Employment Tribunal. However, this meant that the claims would not be heard at all as the Claimants were out of time to lodge their claims in the Employment Tribunal.

The Supreme Court, which was divided in its decision 3:2, dismissed the Council’s appeal and held that the claim could not be more conveniently disposed of by the tribunal if it would there be time-barred. Equally, the time limit for bringing a breach of contract claim in the courts is 6 years and the claims had therefore been brought in time. The Supreme Court also held, however, that claims may be struck out if individuals delay in bringing tribunal proceedings to secure an illegitimate advantage by bringing court proceedings. Also, a court could award costs against an individual if it holds that they could have reasonably presented a claim in time to the employment tribunal. As a result Employment Tribunals are still likely to be the best option for many equal pay claimants.

The result of the above decision means that the Claimants claims for equal pay may now proceed in the High Court.

All but four of the Claimants were women and the claims arose out of the Council paying the Claimants less than predominantly male groups of staff. Sadly women being paid less than men for like work or work rated as equivalent or work of equal value is still a prevalent injustice in our society. However, the Supreme Court’s decision will hopefully open the door for more individuals to redress the imbalance, who would otherwise be out of time.

With successful individuals often securing back pay of up to £10,000 or more in equal pay disputes, it is important to seek advice as soon as possible. If you believe that you have not received equal pay as compared with your male colleagues and the employment about which you wish to complain ended at any time within the last 6 years then you may be able to bring an equal pay claim. If you would like to speak to one of our dedicated advisors please call us on 0800 634 1624.

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