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Equal pay ruling marks a force for change

Current and former Birmingham Council workers and supporter, after today's Court judgement. Photo: PA

Today's Supreme Court judgment brings workplace equality a step closer. But it's been a long road to travel.

Firstly, the time scale and the venue in which a claim for unequal pay can be made have changed.

Instead of there being a six-month cut off there is now a six-year cut off period which opens the door to thousands more claimants. In Birmingham alone, the council may have as many as a thousand claimants in the wake of this judgement. Tens of thousands more may be affected across the UK.The fact that these claims will now be heard in the civil courts rather than in employment tribunals also has implications. In civil courts, costs for the loser are considerably higher.

The High Court in central London. Credit: PA

Secondly, the ruling will accelerate change. It may be 40 years since the Equal Pay Act was introduced but there is still a huge gender pay gap - one of the highest in the EU actually. For every £100 men take home in the UK, women take home about £85.

The gap is higher in the private sector than in the public sector - and varies regionally. It's very high in London.

This disparity in pay is perhaps one of the starkest indicators of how far we have to go to achieve equality between men and women.

As are the large numbers of women who work in menial and dirty roles, often for local authorities, as cleaners, and care workers for example.

This ruling will help low paid women doing menial jobs achieve equally. It will affect thousands of women who may now launch group actions to improve their financial status. It will strike fear into the hearts of employers because wage bills will rise.

Perhaps the end of a long road of struggle and hard work is in sight.

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