Asda loses landmark equal pay court battle

Asda pay
// Asda fails to overturn a ruling that shop floor staff can be considered comparable to warehouse workers
// Ruling expected to have implications on similar equal pay claims being made with other grocers

Asda has lost a long running court battle over equal pay as the Court of Appeal this morning upheld the ruling that shop floor can compare themselves to distribution centre workers.

The grocer sought to challenge a ruling made by the Employment Appeal Tribunal in 2017, which said the two roles were comparable.

Lord Justice Underhill ruled that “Asda applied common terms and conditions wherever they work”, and rejected both Asda’s attempt to repeal the ruling and its application to appeal to the Supreme Court.

This follows two previous rulings which found that the lower-paid shop floor staff, who are predominantly women, can compare themselves to depot workers who are predominantly men.

The ruling concerns the first of three stages in an ongoing equal pay case into whether the roles are comparable, and whether both parties should ultimately be paid the same.

Workers will now 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.

Leigh Day, the law firm that represented the Asda workers, also represents around 30,000 shop floor staff from across the Big 4 supermarkets in similar equal pay disputes.

It is understood that the total potential payout to all the staff represented tops £600 million, with each case potentially being worth £20,000.

This case represents the furthest along of all the supermarket equal pay claims, and the judgements are expected to have significant implications on the other cases being brought by Leigh Day.

“Our clients are obviously delighted to have won this major victory against Asda and we now hope that rather than continuing to spend huge sums of money thwarting attempts to pay their staff what they are worth, Asda and the other major supermarkets pay their staff fairly as these workers are also their customers and fair wages benefit all businesses and UK society in general,” Leigh Day’s Linda Wong said.

“We call on Wal-Mart to lead the change for those hard-working store staff who are their workers and the public face of Asda.”

An Asda spokesperson added: “We are obviously disappointed with the decision, which relates to a preliminary issue of whether jobs in different parts of the business can be compared.

Asda brought this appeal because it involved complex legal issues which have never been fully tested in the private sector and we will continue to ensure this case is given the legal scrutiny it deserves.

“We remain confident in our case. This appeal has caused no delay to the main case, which has been continuing in the Employment Tribunal. The Tribunal has yet to consider whether the jobs are of equal value in terms of their demands; it is only if some jobs are of equal value that the tribunal will go on to consider the reasons for the pay differential between them, including the fact that there are different market rates in different industry sectors.

“At Asda, 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 centres are very different; they operate in different market sectors and we pay the market rate in those sectors regardless of gender.”

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