Asda is returning to court today over a long running dispute over equal pay, hoping to overturn a ruling made last August.
Lawyers for the grocer will argue in the Court of Appeal today that workers on Asda’s shop floor are not comparable to staff at Asda’s depots, and thus should not be paid the same wages.
This follows a ruling last August by the Employment Appeal Tribunal that the roles were comparable, and workers should therefore be paid equally, upholding a previous ruling by the Employment Tribunal.
The hearing concerns the first of three stages in an ongoing equal pay case, looking at whether the roles are comparable.
Should Asda lose the case, workers will then need to tackle the next two stages which look at whether the roles are of equal value and whether there is any reason other than sexual discrimination that means the roles should not be equally paid.
According to law firm Leigh Day, which represents 27,000 shop floor workers at Asda alongside workers in the rest of the Big 4 supermarkets, “lower paid shop workers, who are mostly women, can compare themselves to higher paid workers in Asda’s distribution centres, who are mostly men”.
It is understood that the total value of the claims Leigh Day is bringing against the UK’s largest supermarkets regarding equal pay could be worth over £8 billion.
“We believe Asda are dragging their heels in this case and preventing our clients from getting fair pay and are denying shop floor workers their rights by appealing the two previous decisions against them, forcing them to go through yet another hearing when we have clearly shown that the roles on the shop floor and those in the distribution centres can be compared and should therefore be paid equally,” the firm added.
“We hope that the Court of Appeal will agree with the two previous decisions on this matter and dismiss Asda’s appeal.”
In response, an Asda spokesman said: “This equal value case is extremely complex and without precedent in the private sector, so it is vital the issues are given the legal scrutiny they deserve.
“Whatever the final outcome, the implications for UK businesses, not just in retail, will be far reaching.
“None of the appeals have caused any delay to the case, which continues to progress through the Tribunal, but it will still take many years to conclude. Our hourly rates of pay in stores are the same for female and male colleagues and this is equally true in our depots.
“Pay rates in stores differ from pay rates in distribution centres because the demands of the jobs in stores and the jobs in distribution centre are very different.
“They operate in different market sectors and we pay the market rate in those sectors regardless of gender. ”