The Supreme Court has held in Birmingham City Council v Abdulla that equal pay claims can proceed in the civil courts as an alternative to the employment tribunal.
What does this mean?
Former employees who are out of time for bringing an equal pay claim in a tribunal (where the time limit is six months after the employment has ended) will still be able to bring such a claim in the civil courts (where the time limit is normally six years). However, claimants who deliberately delay bringing tribunal proceedings in order to gain an ‘illegitimate advantage’ by bringing court proceedings risk having their claims struck out and if an individual should reasonably have presented a claim in time to the tribunal, this is something which could be taken into account by the court when deciding what order to make about costs.
What should employers do?
Employers should be aware of the potentially longer time employees may have in which to bring equal pay claims and adjust their risk assessment and budgeting if necessary including when acquiring new businesses. If they think they may be affected, they will be wise to seek specific legal advice to identify and address any such risk.