Asda loses appeal over equal pay for women workers

Joanne Stronach Head of Employment & HR explains.

The Court of Appeal has upheld a tribunal ruling that female workers in Asda stores were employed under terms and conditions that were comparable to men working in the company’s distribution depots.

It’s an important decision as it could allow thousands of women working for major retailers and numerous other businesses to bring equal pay claims.

Asda has 630 retail stores and 24 distribution depots. The claimants, who were mostly but not all women, brought claims based on comparisons with the pay of male employees working at the depots. Before such claims could proceed, the court had to decide whether the roles of two sets of workers were sufficiently comparable to satisfy the requirements of the Equality Act 2010.

According to the claimants, the pay and conditions of distribution workers doing work of equal value were superior to theirs. They argued that common terms of employment applied at both the stores and the depots so that they should be able to bring claims under the Act.

The Employment Tribunal ruled in favour of the women and that decision has been upheld by the Court of Appeal. It held that for both classes of employee, Asda applied common terms and conditions wherever they worked. That was enough to establish comparability.

The decision could enable thousands of workers to bring equal pay cases against Asda and other major companies. It’s been estimated that the potential cost to the big four supermarkets could be £8 billion.

However, Asda says it remains confident that it would win any equal pay claim brought against it following the decision.

A spokesperson said: “We are obviously disappointed with the decision, which relates to a preliminary issue of whether jobs in different parts of the business can be compared.”

“Asda brought this appeal because it involved complex legal issues which have never been fully tested in the private sector and we will continue to ensure this case is given the legal scrutiny it deserves. We remain confident in our case.”

We shall keep clients informed of developments.

Please contact Joanne if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article, or any aspect of employment law on 01228 516666 or click here to send her an email.

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