24/10/2012 10:07 BST | Updated 24/10/2012 11:19 BST

Equal Pay Victory For Women As Supreme Court Rules In Favour Of Action Against Birmingham City Council

More than 170 women can bring damages against Birmingham City Council over equal pay claims, in a case lawyers have said could have "huge implications", the supreme court has ruled.

The former employees can now launch pay equality compensation claims in the High Court, despite originally missing the six month of employment deadline for launching claims.

The challenge came after the council attempted to block 174 women from suing after they were denied bonuses similar to those handed out to employees in traditionally male-dominated jobs such as refuse collectors, street cleaners, road workers and grave diggers.

The Supreme Court decision follows rulings in the High Court and the Court of Appeal about the cases, which date from 2005.

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The difference between male and female pay at the council, as detailed by law firm Leigh Day & Co

The court was told that, in 2007 and 2008, tens of thousands of pounds were paid to female council employees to compensate them.

More payments have also been made to women who took cases to an employment tribunal.

But only workers still employed or who had recently left were eligible to make claims in a tribunal.

Those who had left earlier were caught by a six-month deadline for launching claims.

To get around the deadline, the women started actions for damages in the High Court, which has a six-year deadline for launching claims.

The city council attempted to have those claims struck out, arguing that under equal pay legislation such claims could only be entertained by an employment tribunal.

Chris Benson, partner in the employment team at Leigh Day & Co, prosecuting the case said: “This is a great day for equality and for all those women massively underpaid over many years within public and private organisations.

“Birmingham Council should now do the decent thing and settle the claims. They saved money by underpaying ex-workers for so many years, and so should now stop wasting taxpayers’ money fighting court cases they cannot win."

The firm said they estimated Birmingham City Council's "latest legal failure" cost "hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax payers’ money."