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Time’s up on pay discrimination? A landmark judgment on equal pay

Published 26 October 2012

The time limit for bringing an equal pay claim in the Employment Tribunal is six months after the employee’s employment has come to an end. However, in a new and ground-breaking judgment which came out this week, the Supreme Court has stated that a different and far longer time limit applies if the case is brought in the Civil Courts rather than the Tribunal. In the Courts, the claim can be brought up to six years after the relevant employment ended.

The case in question involved female former employees of Birmingham City Council who claimed that they were paid less than male employees of the Council doing work of the same value. The female employees commenced their legal action more than six months after their employment with the Council had ended, but they argued that because they were bringing their claims in the Courts rather than the Employment Tribunal, the relevant time limit was in fact six years.

The Supreme Court this week has decided that the women’s argument is correct and has stated that their claims should be allowed to proceed. This means that the women can now continue with their legal action against Birmingham City Council and their solicitors have stated that they could end up being entitled to about £2 million in compensation between them.

Nigel Crebbin, a partner in the employment team at the commercial law firm Berg, commented that this ruling needs to be taken seriously by employers, as does the issue of equal pay generally.

“Pay discrimination is clearly unfair and equal pay claims can be very difficult and costly to deal with. Employers need to ensure that their male and female employees are paid the same wages for the same or similar work. Failing to address this can lead to legal proceedings and the Supreme Court’s judgment means that those proceedings can be commenced many years after the employees in question have left your employment. Taking action now to address any unfair discrepancies in pay will help protect you from potential legal difficulties many years down the line.”

(The information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Berg or any of its partners or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.)

Nigel Crebbin
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Berg Solicitors
0161 817 2817

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