Asda equal pay case heads to the Supreme Court

asda equal pay supreme court
Chris Radburn/PA Wire/PA Images

The Supreme Court will consider whether shop floor workers at Asda can be compared to workers in the distribution centre for the purposes of equal pay, in one of the UK’s biggest equal pay cases.

In January the Court of Appeal ruled that the roles of shop workers could be compared to those of warehouse staff, upholding rulings made by an employment tribunal in 2016 and the Employment Appeal Tribunal in 2017.

The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the supermarket’s latest appeal gives Asda one final chance to prove that the roles are not comparable.

Lauren Lougheed, solicitor at Leigh Day, which is representing 35,000 Asda workers, said: “It is disappointing that Asda has refused to accept the ruling of three courts on the issue of comparability. However, our clients from Asda and across all the big five supermarkets should not be disheartened, we are as determined as ever to continue their fight for equal pay.

“We hope that we can win on this issue for the fourth time in the Supreme Court, to prove once and for all that the roles are comparable, and continue on to win the overall fight for equal pay for our clients.”

The shop floor staff, who are predominantly women, argue that they should be paid equally to mainly-male distribution centre staff.

The hearing will relate to whether the roles are comparable. If the court rules that this is the case, the Asda staff will still need to demonstrate that the roles are of equal value in order to win the right to equal pay.

The first hearings to consider the equal value part of the claim took place at an employment tribunal in May and June and a judgment about the first batch of job descriptions is expected in the autumn, according to Leigh Day.

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 centre are very different; they operate in different market sectors and we pay the market rate in those sectors regardless of gender.”

Similar equal pay cases at the rest of the big five supermarkets, which also include Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons and the Co-Op, are working their way through the legal system.

Leigh Day said that if all 500,000 eligible staff at the big five claim and win, the supermarkets could owe them a total of £8 billion in compensation.

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5 Responses to Asda equal pay case heads to the Supreme Court

  1. Avatar
    PS 3 Aug 2019 at 2:02 am #

    I’ve worked in distribution before for another supermarket and the entirety of the staff that dealt with the unloading if trucks, moving giant pallets of goods and then placing them on shelves before the store opened was male. The amount of hard work and strenuous lifting involved dwarfs anything a cashier could imagine. I’m 100% for equal pay for equal work but the job of getting things into shelves is much harder! You can’t compare starting at 5am, unloading pallets and pallets worth of items onto shelves before the store even opens to sitting on your arse for 85% of your shift!

  2. Avatar
    Jf 6 Aug 2019 at 6:09 am #

    Women these days also move, break down and put stock on shelves from pallets… Not just men!!!

  3. Avatar
    david 9 Aug 2019 at 4:48 pm #

    @PS – The value of a job doesn’t solely involve physical effort. That is very simplistic and does not in any way determine the entire demands of the job. You don’t have to deal with customers as a picker in a warehouse yet that is what shop floor staff do every day.

    So while the distribution centre will score high on physical effort, they will score very low on dealing with relationships which the shop floor will score highly on. A distribution centre operative won’t handle any cash either, a checkout operator will be handling thousands of pounds a day. far more responsibility for money than a picker

    About time the private sector got its act together on equal pay. Public sector has been using a multi factor Job Evaluation schemes for over a decade and had to go through the hurt. Private sector think they are immune to the law it seems.

  4. Avatar
    Julie s 9 Aug 2019 at 6:04 pm #

    I am one of these women who fills shelves nightly, and it is hard heavy work .

  5. Avatar
    Peter lloyd 18 Aug 2019 at 11:07 pm #

    Something wrong when people are having to fight in the courts to get equal pay at a company whose owners, the Walton family, earn more in 5 minutes than a night shift worker earns in a year. £8 an hour is an insult and should be increased immediately!

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