A law expert cast doubt over the impact of today's Supreme Court ruling on equal pay, saying that the likelihood of people coming forward to claim would significantly depend on the funds they had available to pursue a case.
– Glenn Hayes, a Partner and employment law expert at Irwin Mitchell
Whether equal pay claims are brought at all is likely to be determined by whether claimants can obtain funding and legal help via their union membership or elsewhere.
It must also be remembered that due to the funding likely to be available and costs consequences that can result from bringing claims in the civil courts, only cases deemed strong enough in the eyes of the legal adviser are likely to be taken on.
Mr Hayes added that in the case of bringing such a claim in a civil court rather than a tribunal, both employers and employees will face the same issues when it comes to defending or proceeding with a claim.
The Women’s Resource Centre, which supports women's organisations to be more effective and sustainable, welcomed the Supreme Court's landmark ruling on equal pay, stating that it represented a move away from a "Victorian-esque" view of "men's work" and "women's work".
– Vivienne Hayes, Chief Executive, Women’s Resource Centre
That these women were denied the bonuses given to their male counterparts is indicative of historical evidence which shows that any specific sector that is mostly populated by women is not only very low paid, but that those men who do work in those sectors actually earn more on average than the women who constitute the majority.
We need a shift across society which moves away from the Victorian-esque view that‘men’s work’ is more valuable than ‘women’s work’; this ruling sets an excellent precedent towards achieving this.
Employment lawyer Samantha Mangwana has said that this mornings decision by the Supreme Court could have a huge implications for equal pay cases.
She said; "Men and women who bring equal pay claims can do so in the ordinary courts where they have up to six years to bring the claim, until now it was thought there was a time limit of six months and they could only be brought in employment tribunals."
Ms Mangwana also said that the change of venue could have further implications for employees bringing equal pay claims:
"In tribunals, employers and employees bear your own costs. The system is completely different in the ordinary courts where the loser pays the winners costs. That could be significant because in cases where people have good claims employers may settle quicker."
Joan Clulow and Pam Sanders were both carers with Birmingham City Council for more than 25 years.
They have spoken today about how they felt when they realised that men who worked as grave diggers and rubbish collectors were being paid more than them.
Lawyers acting for the 170 women have told ITV News Central that they hope Birmingham City Council will now settle the claims.
"What we hope is that Birmingham will not settle the claims - but we'll leave that to them to decide."
Birmingham City Council have said that they are reviewing the judgement which saw them lose their Supreme Court appeal today.
The Supreme Court has today delivered its decision that equal pay cases can be brought in the Civil Courts where the time limit for bringing these claims is six years rather than the current Employment Tribunal time limit of six months.
In the original claim, Abdulla v. Birmingham City Council, 174 claimants brought equal pay claims against the Council and issued them in the High Court as they were out of time for issuing claims in the Employment Tribunal.
– Birmingham City Council statement
Equal pay litigation until now has always been pursued in employment tribunals as these tribunals are experienced and specifically trained in dealing with such claims. In addition, there are very limited situations where costs follow the losing party, whereas in the civil court costs almost always follow the losing party.
The Council is reviewing this judgement in detail before considering its options going forward and will be making no further comment at this stage.
The Lawyers acting for the 170 women and four men who brought the original case against Birmingham City Council have called the ruling, "an historic decision".
– Chris Benson, partner Leigh Day & Co
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 Supreme Court decision follows a Court of Appeal ruling in the women's favour. That ruling said that scores of cooks, cleaners, catering and care staff previously employed by Birmingham City Council were entitled to launch pay equality compensation claims in the High Court.
The city council had challenged that decision but the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal by a majority.
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.
Those women had started actions for damages in the High Court, which has a six-year deadline for launching claims.