More than 400 female employees at Asda have launched legal action against the supermarket around equal pay.
The cases are aimed at determining if the mainly female-staffed retail jobs are of equal value to higher-paid jobs in Asda’s male-dominated distribution centres.
If the case is successful, the employees who have alleged they have been underpaid could be entitled to six years’ back pay for the difference in earnings.
The cases are possible because Asda owns and operates its own distribution warehouses.
Other supermarkets that also own their own distribution centres, such as John Lewis Partnership, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, could also face legal action, said Michael Newman from the employment team at law firm Leigh Day, which is representing the Asda employees.
He added: “In the supermarkets, check-out staff and shelf-stackers are mostly women. The people in the warehouses are pretty much all men. And, who would be surprised, the group that is mostly men gets paid more.
“We are very confident that the jobs are pretty much the same. In the warehouses, they take stuff off the shelves, put it on a pallet and stick it on a lorry. In the supermarket, they do the reverse: take the pallets off the lorry, unstack them and put stuff on the shelves.
“There has been huge advancement in equal pay within the public sector, but in the private sector it is still the 1970s. Job evaluations don’t happen. Cases aren’t brought. So you still get this very segregated workplace. Women are over here doing the women’s work and men are over there doing men’s work.”
A spokesperson from Asda said: “We are aware of a small number of claims. We pay a fair market rate for the job people do regardless of gender and we don’t recognise discrimination in our business.”
The legal action is expected to be heard within the next two months at Manchester employment tribunal.