Cooks, cleaners and dozens of other female workers won a key equal pay ruling at Britain's High Court on Wednesday in a case which lawyers say will effectively extend the amount of time people in this country have to file such claims.

The case involved 174 female workers who are seeking bonuses similar to those handed to employees in traditionally male-dominated jobs such as garbage collectors, road workers and grave-diggers.

Leigh Day & Co., the law firm that represented the employees, said thousands of women workers around the U.K. could be affected by the decision.

The Birmingham City Council argued the 174 women had to bring their cases before employment tribunals within six months. But the women sued at the High Court, arguing that the cases should be allowed to be heard in civil courts — extending the time limit to six years.

Birmingham sought to have their claims struck down, but the court refused and the case continues.

"This is a great day for equality and for all those women massively underpaid over many years within public and private organizations," said Chris Benson, a partner at Leigh Day. "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 council said in a statement that it was considering its next step.