The Supreme Court has just made it easier for employees to bring equal pay claims against their employers.  Previously, employees had to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal within 6 months of their employment ending.  A lot of employees missed this deadline. However, they will now be able to bring a claim in the civil courts 6 years after leaving work.  This may mean employers are forced to defend claims arising out of pay practices which existed many years ago. 

The decision has been heralded as “historic” and it will certainly enable a lot more employees to bring claims.  However, it has to be remembered that there is a much bigger costs risk in the courts.  If the Claimant loses her case, she will be ordered to pay her employer’s costs which could be many thousands of pounds.  In the Tribunal, costs are only awarded in the minority of cases.  This may therefore put off some employees who don’t have union backing.  It has been suggested that the employees who will benefit from this ruling are those who worked for large city firms and banks but didn’t want to rock the boat bringing a claim when they were still employed in the sector.  If they have now moved on they may be tempted to sue for their unpaid bonus or insignificant pay rise.  They will now be in time to bring such claims.  Birmingham City Council will have to pay £2.2 million as a result of this decision, but this could be the tip of the iceberg if higher paid employees now decide to bring claims.

Employmentbuddy has an Equal Pay Factsheet, an Equal Pay Policy and other documents if you are worried about your potential liabilities.