The Supreme Court has ruled in Birmingham City Council v Abdulla and others that equal pay claims can proceed in the High Court where they are out of time to be heard in the employment tribunal.

174 employees of Birmingham City Council brought equal pay claims in the High Court because they were outside the six month time limit to bring their claims in the employment tribunal, whereas the time limit for breach of contract claims in the civil courts is six years. The High Court and Court of Appeal rejected the Council’s argument that the claims should be struck out on the basis that they could more conveniently be disposed of in an employment tribunal, because the tribunal would in any event have no jurisdiction to hear them.

The Supreme Court has now also held that since the tribunal would not have jurisdiction to hear the claims because they were out of time, they should be allowed to proceed in the High Court. This decision could result in more equal pay claims being pursued in the civil courts where the tribunal deadline has passed. Although the significant costs risks involved in bringing a civil claim may act as a deterrent, in practice, equal pay claims are often backed by trade unions.