A group of female workers have won a landmark case in the Court of Appeal which could pave the way for hundreds more compensation claims over gender pay equality in the workplace.

The case involves 174 women, all former employees of Birmingham City Council, who claimed their employer was guilty of gender discrimination by denying them bonuses similar to those handed out to staff in traditionally male-dominated jobs such as refuse collectors, street cleaners, road workers and gravediggers.

Under current rules, only workers who are still employed or have left their employment within the last six months are eligible to take cases to an Employment Tribunal.

However, as the women, who worked as cooks, cleaners, caterers and care staff, had left their positions some time ago, they were ineligible to take their claim to tribunal and be granted compensation, despite the fact that in 2007 and 2008, tens of thousands of pounds were paid to female council employees to compensate them for pay inequalities.

To get round this, the women took their case to the High Court, which has a six-year deadline for launching claims, and secured a judge’s ruling in their favour.

The council then took the case to the Court of Appeal, claiming that claims of this nature can only be dealt with by the Employment Tribunal.

However, the appeal was dismissed after judges unanimously ruled Birmingham City Council had failed to establish that the deputy judge’s ruling on the 1970 Equal Pay Act was wrong or in any way flawed.

This now opens the door for potential claimants in both the private and public sector who thought their claims were outside tribunal time limits to pursue actions for compensation.

Leigh Day & Co partner Chris Benson, representing the former employees, said: “Every judge that has considered this case in both the High Court and Court of Appeal has expressed the view quite clearly that these claims on behalf of our clients would be successful.”