A “landslide” of legal claims could be taken against employers who do not assess the effect of public sector job cuts on women workers, a leading trade union has warned.

Unison said cuts would have a disproportionate effect on women, who make up the majority of public sector employees.

The union said it will use an equality duty on employers to take legal action against any who are not carrying out equality impact assessments prior to cutting jobs and public services.

General secretary Dave Prentis said: “The vast majority of Unison members are women and we have spent decades fighting for equal pay and to ensure that women are treated fairly in the workplace. We will not stand back and see all that work undone by councils cutting jobs indiscriminately.

“The battle for Britain’s public services could tie up our already overstretched legal system for decades, if employers do not carry out equality impact assessments.

“It is easy to see that women are literally in the firing line when it comes to public sector job cuts and that is not acceptable.

“Despite decades of pressure from Unison, the public sector pay gap between men women is still 21%. The pay freeze and services cuts threaten to widen that gulf even further.

“The government must take account of the impact of public spending cuts on women and rethink their strategy.”

A Treasury spokeswoman said: “The government takes its equalities responsibilities very seriously, and has made clear that it will look carefully at the impact of spending review decisions on different groups. All departments ensure that equality issues are considered when assessing options for spending reductions - they have a legal obligation to do so.”