High Court to hear equal pay claims after Birmingham City Council appeal fails

The High Court has jurisdiction to hear equal pay claims after the Court of Appeal ruled in a case brought by Birmingham City Council.

The decision will give a new avenue of redress to hundreds of equal pay claimants who had thought their claims sat outside the Employment Tribunal limitation period.

Leigh Day & Co represented 174 women who worked as cleaners, cooks, catering staff and care staff to recover compensation for bonuses they claim they were excluded from as these were handed out to employees in traditionally male-dominated jobs such as refuse collectors, street cleaners, road workers and gravediggers.

The firm instructed Outer Temple barrister Andrew Short QC to respond to a strike out appeal brought by Birmingham City Council, which instructed Cloisters’ Paul Epstein QC.

The council argued that the High Court did not have jurisdiction to hear equal pay claims, claiming they were better suited to the more specialist Employment Tribunal (ET).    

Responding, Leigh Day argued that to transfer the claims to the ET would render them outside its specific limitation period leaving the tribunal with little choice but to strike out the proceedings.

Giving the substantive ruling Lord Justice Mummery stated: “The draconian consequences of striking out the claims in the ordinary courts in these cases would be that (a) the claimants would be deprived of their rights to pursue claims which they had brought in time in a court having jurisdiction to determine them on their merits; and (b) there would be nowhere else available for the claimants to have their claims determined on their merits, the ET being bound to dispose of them for lack of jurisdiction.”

Mummery LJ shared the judicial panel with Lord Justice Davis and Dame Janet Smith in the strike-out appeal pursued by Birmingham City Council against 174 claimants who are seeking to bring equal pay claims against the local authority.

The council instructed Cloisters Chambers’ Paul Epstein QC to lead Old Square barrister Louise Chudleigh in the appeal.

Leigh Day partner Chris Benson instructed Outer Temple’s Andrew Short QC to lead Naomi Ling for the respondents.