An employment tribunal regarding equal pay among Asda employees will go ahead after the company’s attempt to block it failed in the Court of Appeal today.
The tribunal was brought by more than 7000 workers who are mostly women and work in hourly-paid jobs in Asda’s retail stores.
They are demanding equal pay as those working in the distribution depots, who are mostly men and generally paid more.
Asda wanted the employment tribunal to halt the proceedings, which would mean the employees had to go to the High Court to continue their fight.
However, the employment tribunal said it had no power to halt the proceedings and it would not be appropriate to do so anyway.
This prompted Asda to challenge the tribunal’s decision in the Court of Appeal, which was struck down today by two judges.
While Asda’s lawyers argued the complex nature of the case needed to be heard in the High Court, in his ruling today Lord Justice Elias said Parliament already recognises the employment tribunal is an appropriate forum for determining an equal pay issue than the High Court.
In addition, there were questions surrounding the potential prejudice to a claimant, such as the court fees involved, and how few High Court judges had experience in this field.
"The ruling from the Court of Appeal relates solely to the way the case will proceed in the courts - it has nothing to do with the merits of the case itself,” an Asda spokesperson said.
“Whilst we respect the court's decision, we continue to strongly dispute the claims being made against us in the employment tribunal.
"This is a legal case about different rates of pay for different jobs. We believe that jobs in question are very different in terms of their demands, and we strongly dispute the claims being made.
"At Asda people doing the same job are paid the same. Men and women doing the same job in our retail stores are paid the same. Men and women doing the same job in our distribution and logistics centre are paid the same.
“Pay rates in stores and depots differ for legitimate reasons, including the different market rates for different jobs."