The High Court has held that, if an employee acted reasonably in failing to bring their equal pay claim in an Employment Tribunal within the strict 6 month time limit, they can potentially do so before a normal Civil Court, and take advantage of a 6 year time limit.
This is because equal pay law deems an equality clause to be a term of every contract of employment. Strictly speaking, therefore, failing to pay a woman as much as a man in the same employment amounts to a breach of contract. Subject to the rule that requires all claims to be brought in the most convenient forum, Civil Courts are able to hear breach of contract claims.
Whereas the time limit in the Employment Tribunal is 6 months (and it is not possible to extend this) the time limit in Civil Courts is 6 years.
Whether or not an employee has acted reasonably in not bringing their claim within the Tribunal deadline will be open to interpretation, but could arguably be interpreted in favour of the employee.
This means that there is potentially enormous new scope for employees to bring equal pay claims.
We therefore expect this decision to be appealed!