Lawyers representing the group said that the judgment had, in effect, extended the time limit for equal pay claims from six months to six years – and that it had implications for thousands of other former local government workers.
The 170 women and four men, known as the Abdulla group after the woman whose name was at the top of the list, all left the council in 2004-08. They allege that it had denied them pay and benefits awarded to colleagues of the opposite sex for doing equivalent jobs. They missed the six-month deadline for pursuing their claim in an employment tribunal and are seeking redress through the civil courts, where the time limit for bringing a case is six years.
The council had attempted to block their claim, arguing that equal pay cases could be dealt with by tribunals “more conveniently” than the courts could, so the Abdulla group’s case should be struck out for that reason. But three of the five Supreme Court justices hearing the case ruled against it. The High Court and Court of Appeal had also found against the council.
The group could be entitled to a total pay-out of about £2m. Law firm Leigh Day & Co said that up to another 1,000 former council employees could also submit claims.
Birmingham City Council is preparing to cut its spending by more than £120m next year.