A group of 14 former home carers has won a “landmark judgement” allowing them to sue Birmingham City Council over claims of unfair pay.
The women accused the council of breaching their contracts under equality laws by failing to pay the same wages and bonuses as those paid to male gardeners and grave diggers doing equivalent jobs.
But after they lodged their case with the county court, the council appealed and claimed it should be struck out.
Lawyers for the council said the women had missed the six-month time limit for an employment tribunal and should not be allowed to take the case to county court.
A High Court judge agreed, saying the women’s claims would be an “abuse of process” but his decision was overturned by Mrs Justice Slade, clearing the way for a county court action.
The ruling could open the floodgates for thousands of employment claims that had previously been refused for being out of time. During their appeal, the council said there would be “numerous other claims” against them because of the “more generous” six-year limit for county court cases.
Anthony McKeever, representing the women, said they had not been able to take the council to an employment tribunal because they had not realised the alleged gap in their earnings until it was too late.
All 14 worked as home helpers or home carers until dates between July 2003 and 2006. Their claim for breach of contract was filed with the county court on March 25, 2009.
In her judgement, Mrs Justice Slade said the previous judge had “erred in failing to make findings as to the reason the appellants did not issue timely proceedings in the employment tribunal and whether they acted reasonably in failing to do so.”