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Employment Law: Millions of pounds compensation due in Birmingham Council equal pay case

Birmingham City Council has lost an appeal to prevent 174 female former-employees from taking their equal-pay claim to the High Court, which may result in the council paying out millions of pounds in compensation.

While equal-pay claims are normally heard at employment tribunals and can only take place within six months of the employee leaving their job, the High Court allows employment cases to be heard up to six years after the employment has ended.

This has allowed the 174 women to bring their claim for back pay, which runs to about £3 million, and potentially opens the gates for thousands of other female former-employees to make claims.

The 174 women, who worked as council cleaners, caterers, cooks and care staff, sued Birmingham City Council for denying them cash bonuses that were paid to employees in male-dominated jobs such as road maintenance, street cleaning, refuse collection and grave digging.

The women's lawyers Leigh, Day & Co claimed that the council was in breach of contract and took the case to the High Court last year. However, the council claimed that the case should be struck out as the former employees had left their jobs more than six months before.

The council's appeal failed and the High Court hearing will go ahead. Lawyers at Leigh, Day & Co are confident of success.

Chris Benson, partner at Leigh, Day & Co, said: "Every judge that has considered this case in both the High Court and Court of Appeal has expressed the view quite clearly that these claims on behalf of our clients would be successful.

"Birmingham City Council is trying through legal technicalities to avoid paying what they owe to our clients and in doing so are continuing to waste taxpayer's money, ramping up the legal costs unnecessarily by fighting a hopeless battle."

Linda Manders, 59, worked as a school lunchtime supervisor for ten years, employed by Birmingham City Council. Her previous claim for compensation was refused because it was lodged after the six-month time limit.

She said: "I was disgusted but there was nothing I could do. The lunchtime supervisor role was the only job that fitted round my needs, although the pay was low and much lower than men on the same pay grade.

"Not being able to claim the pay I was entitled to is simply not right and this judgment helps me and others like me who may now be able to recover what they should have been paid over many years."

The equal-pay claim is expected to be "the tip of the iceberg" as hundreds more women are likely to lodge claims against the council.

The council is considering taking their appeal to the Supreme Court.

Related links:

Read more on the story (Birmingham Post)

Sex discrimination and equal pay (FindLaw)

Find local employment solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)