Asda workers win latest round in equal pay case
Asda may pay the price over equal pay verdict
Asda workers have won the latest stage in an equal pay claim that could have implications across the retail sector.
The UK’s highest court backed a Court of Appeal judgment that 44,000 Asda store workers, about two-thirds of whom are women, are entitled to the same rate of pay as those in distribution depots, most of whom are men.
The compensation payment could run to £500 million.
Asda said store jobs were not comparable to distribution centre jobs.
But justices at the Supreme Court in London today ruled against the company, agreeing that store workers, who had made sex-discrimination claims, were entitled to compare themselves to distribution staff for equal pay purposes.
Lawyers from Leigh Day who were representing the store workers said distribution depot workers received between £1.50 and £3.00 an hour more. They said the ruling will have implications for supermarkets and other retailers.
A defiant Asda spokesman said after the hearing: “This 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.”
But Susan Harris, the GMB union’s legal director, called on Asda to accept the verdict and settle with its workers.
“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,” she said.
The next stage of the fight will involve a further employment tribunal case to determine whether specific store and distribution jobs are of “equal value”.