// Supreme Court rules that Asda shop staff are entitled to compare themselves to colleagues at distribution centres for equal pay purposes
// It’s a key victory for shop floor workers, but the fight is still not over with more litigation to come
// Lawyers said the ruling would have implications for supermarkets and other retailers.
Asda bosses have lost a Supreme Court appeal regarding an equal pay case brought forward by 40,000 shop floor workers.
This morning, five judges in the UK’s top court dismissed Asda’s appeal and unanimously ruled shop staff were entitled to compare themselves to colleagues at the Big 4 grocer’s distribution centres for equal pay purposes.
The ruling marks a key victory for Asda shop workers in their long-running dispute for equal pay.
- Walmart to face Asda equal pay bill despite sale to Issa brothers
- Asda boss Roger Burnley to exit after £6.8bn takeover
- Reduced grocery space for nail bars & cafes – a good idea for Asda?
However, the fight is not over yet.
Lawyers representing the Asda shop workers, from law firm Leigh Day, said the next step would involve an employment tribunal deciding whether specific store and distribution jobs were of “equal value”.
If judges decided that different jobs were of “equal value”, the litigation would then enter a third stage.
The lawyers said the employment tribunal would then consider whether there were reasons – other than gender – why people working in stores should not get the same pay rates as people working in distribution centres.
Lawyers have said that if Asda store workers win all further stages of their fight they could be entitled to several years’ back pay.
They added that the ruling would have implications across the retail industry and suggested victory in the next stages of litigation might lead to supermarkets paying out around £8 billion.
An Asda spokesman said: “[The Supreme Court’s] ruling relates to one stage of a complex case that is likely to take several years to reach a conclusion.
“We are defending these claims because the pay in our stores and distribution centres is the same for colleagues doing the same jobs regardless of their gender.
“Retail and distribution are very different sectors with their own distinct skill sets and pay rates.
“Asda has always paid colleagues the market rate in these sectors and we remain confident in our case.”
Lauren Lougheed, a Leigh Day lawyer representing Asda store staff, said: “We are delighted that our clients have cleared such a big hurdle in their fight for equal pay.
“Already an employment tribunal, the employment appeal tribunal and the Court of Appeal ruled that these roles can be compared, and now the Supreme Court has come to the same conclusion.
“It’s our hope that Asda will now stop dragging its heels and pay their staff what they are worth.”
The news comes after more than 40,000 Asda shop workers, about two-thirds of whom are women, brought equal pay claims after complaining that staff working in distribution depots unfairly get more money.
The store workers, who made the sex discrimination claims with the help of representation from Leigh Day, said they historically received less because most store workers are women while most distribution depot staff are men.
Lawyers representing the store workers argued that distribution depot workers receive between £1.50 and £3.00 per hour more.
Supreme Court justices had been asked to consider whether Asda store workers were entitled to compare themselves to distribution staff for equal pay purposes.
Judges ruled against Asda bosses this morning after considering arguments at a hearing in July.
In 2016, an employment tribunal decided that Asda store workers were entitled to compare themselves to distribution staff.
That decision was upheld by Court of Appeal judges in 2019.
Asda bosses then appealed to the Supreme Court, which they lost today.
Lawyers warned that the store workers’ fight would not end and that litigation could run on for years.
with PA Wires