Personal Law

Asda Workers Win Supreme Court Backing in Equal Pay Fight

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

Carrie Tennick, March 26, 2021

Asda supermarket floor employees have achieved a major milestone in their fight for equal pay.

The supreme court has backed a decision by a 2016 employment tribunal that retail staff – who are mostly women – can compare their work to that of distribution centre staff – who are mostly men.

Distribution centre workers are paid more than those working in the supermarkets. The discrimination claims brought by the retail workers said their distribution centre colleagues were paid between £1.50 and £3 more per hour.

But Asda has argued that the jobs were not comparable, saying that they are in different sectors and require different skills.

The next stages

The supreme court ruling does not mean that the workers involved in the claim are immediately entitled to equal pay. The next stage will involve an employment tribunal determining whether the retail and distribution centre jobs are of equal value.

This could be followed by a further stage, when a tribunal will look at whether factors other than gender mean the jobs should not be paid equally.

It’s expected that it will take years for the claim to conclude.

The case is also expected to have consequences for other UK supermarkets, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and the Co-op – all of which are involved in their own disputes over equal pay with employees.

It’s thought that if all supermarkets involved lose their cases, the backdated compensation could amount to around £8 billion.

A ‘massive victory’

Asda workers’ union, the GMB Union, hailed the decision as a “massive victory”. It said it will now call for a meeting with Asda to discuss a potential £500 million compensation claim.

Susan Harris, GMB legal director, said: “This is amazing news and a massive victory for Asda’s predominantly women shop floor workforce.”

She went on to say: “Asda has wasted money on lawyers’ bills chasing a lost cause, losing appeal after appeal, while tens of thousands of retail workers remain out of pocket. We now call on Asda to sit down with us to reach agreement on the back pay owed to our members – which could run to hundreds of millions of pounds.”

Defending the claims

In response to the ruling, an Asda spokesperson said: “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.”

Get help with an employment matter here

If you’ve been dealing with a workplace problem that requires the assistance of a specialist employment law team, just get in touch to find out how First4Lawyers can help.

Give us a call, request a call back or make an enquiry online and we’ll take it from there.

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