Cumbria County Council is facing the prospect of a huge pay-out to nearly 3,000 female employees after a landmark sex discrimination tribunal ruling last week.
The tribunal found that the council was paying 2,960 women workers, including carers, cleaners and catering staff, less than their male colleagues.
It has been given 48 days to appeal against the judgement. Solicitors from the council are assessing the ruling to see if they have grounds to appeal.
The 10-week hearing took place in Carlisle between September and November last year, but the first claims were made in October 2002.
Lawyers have predicted that some workers could claim up to £60,000 if their pay is backdated. A council spokesman said the local authority was considering its response to the ruling.
“This is a complex judgement and it will take time to analyse the full implications,” he said. “It is certainly premature to speculate on figures at this stage. We will provide a full and considered response at the end of the week.”
Cumbria council offered an out-of-court settlement which was rejected by the GMB union and Unison, representing staff.
If the payout totals £50m this would use 12% of the council’s £600m annual budget.
Last month, women working for an NHS trust in Cumbria were awarded millions of pounds in compensation after winning an historic equal pay battle last year.