The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decided Asda staff working in stores can compare themselves to workers in the distribution centres
Nearly 7,000 Asda employees or former employees could bring an equal pay claim costing the supermarket more than £100m.
Today’s decision relates only to whether the store workers can compare themselves to the distribution workers. Whether those jobs are of equal value for equal pay law purposes has still to be decided.
The outcome of today could have implications for the wider retail industry as many past equal pay cases have largely centred on local authorities but the focus is now most definitely on the supermarkets.
Since the October 2016 ruling, it is believed that the number of Asda workers who have given Leigh Day permission to present claims on their behalf has increased to 15,000.
Asda argued that different departments ran the two sectors and there were different methods of setting pay, so no comparison could be drawn and appealed the tribunal decision. This was dismissed by the EAT.
The trade union, GMB, have helped bring the case for the Asda employees and Tim Roache, general secretary of GMB is quoted as saying “GMB looks forward to Asda management sitting down and finding a sensible negotiated solution to recognising that our female members in stores should be paid and valued as equal to the men.”
This could spark employees to take a closer look at their salaries compared to colleagues regardless of where they work in a business and as such is a much-needed step forward in the drive for equal pay.
“[The EAT] decision could kick-start a flurry of similar claims for retailers across the UK in relation to inconsistencies in the wages of staff behind the till and on the shop floor compared to those in distribution centres,” said Chris Cook, head of the employment department at SA Law. “Indeed, employees will be taking a closer look at their salaries and assessing how they measure up to their colleagues, regardless of where they work in a business. This shouldn’t be seen as an isolated case, and instead, represents a significant step in the drive for equal pay.”