A Court of Appeal hearing will begin on 10 October over Employment Tribunal (ET) and Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) pay claim rulings that Asda shop-floor workers have comparable roles to their colleagues in the supermarket’s distribution centres.
The three-day hearing concerns the first of three stages in the equal pay case. The three-stage process looks at whether roles are comparable, whether they are of equal value, and whether there is a reason other than sex discrimination that means the roles should not be paid equally.
Asda is appealing the first two rulings in favour of 27,000 Asda shop-floor workers, represented by solicitors Leigh Day, which found that lower-paid shop workers, many of them women, can compare themselves to higher-paid workers in distribution centres, many of them men.
The ET initially ruled against Asda in October 2016. The employer then appealed on 10 different grounds, all of which the EAT ruled unsuccessful.
Leigh Day is also representing shop-floor staff from Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons supermarkets in similar cases. The Asda case is furthest along in the pay claims and the law firm estimates that total pay owed to eligible staff could exceed £8 billion if all four supermarkets lose their cases.
Lauren Lougheed, lead lawyer at Leigh Day for the Asda case, said: “We are ready to fight once again for our ever-increasing group of supermarket clients who rightly demand equal pay for doing a job of equal worth to Asda.
“We believe Asda are dragging their heels in this case and preventing our clients from getting fair pay and are denying shop-floor workers their rights by appealing the two previous decisions against them, forcing them to go through yet another hearing when we have clearly shown that the roles on the shop floor and those in the distribution centres can be compared and should therefore be paid equally.”
An Asda spokesperson said: “This equal value case is extremely complex and without precedent in the private sector, so it is vital the issues are given the legal scrutiny they deserve. Whatever the final outcome, the implications for UK businesses, not just in retail, will be far reaching. Leigh Day have also appealed points they have lost. None of the appeals have caused any delay to the case, which continues to progress through the Tribunal, but it will still take many years to conclude.
“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.”