Supermarket chain Asda has lost an equal pay fight in the UK Supreme Court that could pave the way for equal pay claims from thousands of store workers.
More than 40,000 Asda store workers, around two-thirds of whom are women, brought equal pay claims against the company, saying that staff working in distribution depots, most of whom are men, get higher pay.
Asda said store jobs are not comparable to distribution centre jobs, but Supreme Court justices have this morning ruled against the company.
The court decided that store workers were entitled to compare themselves to distribution staff for equal pay purposes.
The GMB union hailed the court’s ruling as a ‘massive victory’ and called for talks with Asda over what compensation that it said could total up to £500m.
Susan Harris, GMB legal director, said: “This is amazing news and a massive victory for Asda’s predominantly women shop floor workforce.
“We are proud to have supported our members in this litigation and helped them in their fight for pay justice.
“Asda has wasted money on lawyers’ bills chasing a lost cause, losing appeal after appeal, while tens of thousands of retail workers remain out of pocket.
“We now call on Asda to sit down with us to reach agreement on the back pay owed to our members – which could run to hundreds of millions of pounds.”
A ruling that Asda shop workers could be compared with distribution workers was first made at an employment tribunal in 2016 and then upheld at an employment appeal tribunal a year later and at the Court of Appeal in 2019. Today is the fourth judgement to go against Asda.
An Asda spokesman said: “This ruling relates to one stage of a complex case that is likely to take several years to reach a conclusion.
“We are defending these claims because the pay in our stores and distribution centres is the same for colleagues doing the same jobs regardless of their gender.
“Retail and distribution are very different sectors with their own distinct skill sets and pay rates. Asda has always paid colleagues the market rate in these sectors and we remain confident in our case.”