Asda equal pay case comes before Supreme Court

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The long-running equal pay dispute between Asda and its shop-floor staff is to be considered by the Supreme Court this week.

Some 38,000 Asda shop floor workers, most of whom are women, claim they should be paid the same wages as distribution centre staff, who are mostly men and receive a higher hourly rate.

The Supreme Court will consider whether consider whether the shop floor staff are entitled to compare their wages to those of distribution staff for equal pay purposes. The hearing, which takes place today and tomorrow (14 July) is the last chance for Asda to argue that the roles are not comparable.

The Court of Appeal, which heard the case last year, believed the shop floor staff are entitled to compare their wages to warehouse workers’ wages, upholding the rulings of the employment tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

The outcome of the case will have  a significant impact on other similar group action claims being brought by shop floor staff at other major supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Tesco and the Co-op.

It is estimated that the back pay owed to workers could total £8bn if all of the retailers lost their equal pay cases.

Law firm Leigh Day, which is representing the Asda staff, said the case was the largest equal pay claim to ever be brought against an employer in the UK.

Commenting on the case, Adam Pennington, an employment lawyer at Stephensons, said: “This is a highly significant case not only for Asda and the 35,000 workers affected, but also for the private sector as a whole. If the Supreme Court rules in favour of the employees in this case, it will open up the possibility of claims against any other employer where there is a discrepancy between the rates of pay in the depot and those found in store.

“In the last few months alone we’ve been reminded how important those working in our supermarkets really are. The hope from these workers will be that the Supreme Court finds their hard work is of equal value to those colleagues in the depot and that steps are taken to level out an uneven shop floor when it comes to wages.”

Asda said in a statement: “We welcome the opportunity to bring the equal value case to the Supreme Court. The case is extremely complex and without precedent in the private sector, so it is vital the issues are given the legal scrutiny they deserve.

“Whilst we respect the rights of retail workers to bring this case, we fundamentally disagree with its premise and will continue to make our arguments clear.

“Our hourly rates of pay in stores are the same for male and female colleagues and this is equally true in our distribution centres. Retail and distribution are two different industry sectors and we pay colleagues the market rates for these sectors.”

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4 Responses to Asda equal pay case comes before Supreme Court

  1. Avatar
    Sandra l 14 Jul 2020 at 12:58 pm #

    I work in a busy store my job entails a lot of heavy lifting of stock use of pallet trucks and also the added stress off dealing with customers it’s a very stressful environment and deserves the same pay as distribution after all without staff in store filling the shelves the customer couldn’t purchase.

    • Avatar
      Desmond Roberts 21 Jul 2020 at 8:23 pm #

      I wonder, how far do you travel to the store? Surely the distribution center will be far further away? Would you want to travel to that site? It’ll be the same for the DC workers on average.

      They’ll have higher travel to work costs. Perhaps for this reason among others it is people are not as keen to work at the DC and consequently, the pay rates are better.

      Its unlikely Asda are intentionally paying over the odds, if they only needed to pay store rates at the DC in order to fill the roles then, that is what they’d do.

  2. Avatar
    Philip Rogers 15 Jul 2020 at 5:26 pm #

    In the distribution center they put goods onto pallets to go to the supermarket. And we take them off the pallets in store. To put onto shelves. I do believe I do the same job as they do. So why shouldn’t I be paid the same.

  3. Avatar
    Robert Baglin 15 Jul 2020 at 10:36 pm #

    My daughter works in store and in the warehouse pulling cages into and around the store before emptying contents and filling shelves so what is the difference between loading these heavy cages on or off transport?I would say the hardest job is unloading and moving through store dodging customers and being under pressure to get them emptied so how can Asda or owners Walmart deny equal pay for this but I suppose they will have better and more expensive lawyers to squirm out of their responsibility.

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