Six Year Time Limit for Equal Pay Claims Following Supreme Court Ruling
Employees now have six years to bring an equal pay claim, following the ruling of the Supreme Court in Birmingham City Council v Abdulla.
The claimants brought equal pay claims in the High Court, arguing that the Council’s failure to pay them the same as male colleagues was a breach of the equality clause implied by the Equal Pay Act 1970. Equal pay claims are generally brought in the employment tribunal where the time limit for bringing the claim is six months after the employment ends. Tribunals are not able to extend this time limit. The claimants only became aware of their potential claims after their former colleagues were successful in their claims. They could not therefore bring tribunal claims as their claims would have been out of time.
Where an equal pay claim is brought in the civil courts, rather than a tribunal, the civil courts have a discretion to strike out the claim if they consider it could more conveniently be disposed of by an employment tribunal, the more natural home for an equal pay claim. The Council argued that the court should exercise its discretion to strike out the claim on the basis that it could more conveniently be disposed of by an employment tribunal.
The Supreme Court disagreed and ruled that an equal pay claim can never be more conveniently disposed of by an employment tribunal if it would be time-barred. The reason for failing to bring the claim in the employment tribunal within the six month time was irrelevant.
As a result, claimants will have six years in which to bring an equal pay claim. If they wish to bring their claim in the employment tribunal they must do so within six months of the termination of their employment, otherwise they will have to use the civil courts.
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