The roles of shop floor workers and warehouse staff at Asda can be compared for the purposes of assessing equal pay, the Supreme Court has ruled in a landmark judgment which will have ramifications for other equal pay cases in the retail sector.
Delivering the court’s judgment this morning, Lady Arden dismissed Asda’s appeal and confirmed that the terms and conditions of shop floor staff and distribution centre workers can be compared with one another, even if the two groups of workers are not based at the same establishment.
However, Lady Arden said the 35,000 shop floor workers who brought a claim against the supermarket still must prove the work they do is of equal value, and Asda is still open to argue that there is a material difference in the roles which justifies a difference in pay.
She said the case as Lady Arden said the case was “important because otherwise an employer could avoid equal pay claims by allocating certain groups of employees to separate sites so that they can have different terms even where this is discriminatory”.
Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons and numerous other major retailers including Next have each been embroiled in long-running equal pay disputes with shop floor workers, who claim their work is of equal value as the work carried out by warehouse staff, whose roles attract a higher hourly rate of pay.
Law firm Leigh Day, which is representing Asda staff in the case, said it was the largest equal pay claim to ever be brought in the UK and has estimated that pay outs could total £8bn if all retailers lose their cases.
The shop floor workers in the Asda case are mainly female, while the distribution staff are mainly male, making it an equal pay issue.
Michael Newman, a partner at Leigh Day, told Personnel Today: “The next stage of the claim is assessing whether the jobs are of equal value – for example, whether they need qualifications to do them. We’ve been looking at this for several years, so this work will continue.”
Lauren Lougheed, also a partner at Leigh Day, commented: “We are delighted that our clients have cleared such a big hurdle in their fight for equal pay.
“It’s our hope that Asda will now stop dragging its heels and pay their staff what they are worth.”
Original article ‘Supreme Court: Asda shop floor staff can be compared to warehouse workers’ Written by Ashleigh Webber Published by Personnel Today
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