Asda is being convinced to withdraw a legal action and increase pay on the shop floor after the company lost its appeal against a claim for equal pay from 15,000 workers.
The employment appeal tribunal supported an October ruling that women, who work in positions across the shop floor, can compare their functions with those done predominantly by men for a higher wage in warehouses of Asda.
Asda, however, indicated it would ask permission to bring the case to the court of appeal. The retailer could be required to adjust the pay of many of its 100,000-plus shop-floor staff and make back payments dating back to 2002, at a cost estimated of up to £100m, if the ruling proceeds to hold.
Legal representatives of the claimants stated that the women usually earned between £1 and £3 an hour less than the workers at Asda’s distribution centres.
The company challenged the ruling on ten distinct grounds but was unsuccessful on all. It stated no discrimination between the two groups of employees was possible slightly because different departments operated the stores and the distribution centres and there were different approaches for setting pay in each workplace.
The general secretary of the GMB union, Tim Roache, which is supporting the equal pay case, stated: “GMB look forward to Asda management sitting down and finding a sensible negotiated solution to recognising that our female members in stores should be paid and valued as equal to the men.
“Instead of wasting money on litigation, we ask Asda to be a market leader in solving this wide-ranging industry problem.”
The law firm, Leigh Day, overseeing the case for the claimants’ Chris Benson stated: “After yet another defeat, we hope that Asda take this opportunity to reflect on the merits of the claims, and concentrate on why they pay men more than women for jobs of equal value, rather than trying to stop the claims going ahead at all.”
A spokesperson from Asda said: “We are disappointed with this appeal ruling which relates to a technical preliminary issue of whether jobs in different parts of the business can be compared.
“The employment appeal tribunal have given us permission to appeal against this judgment, to the court of appeal. We continue to strongly dispute the claims being made against us.
“The employment tribunal has yet to consider whether the jobs are of equal value in terms of their demands and if some jobs are, only then will the tribunal move on to consider the reasons for the differentials, including the existence of different market rates in different industry sectors.
“At Asda, hourly paid colleagues doing the same job in the same location are paid the same. Men and women doing the same job in our retail stores are paid the same. Men and women doing the same job in our distribution centres are paid the same. Pay rates in stores differ from pay rates in distribution centres for legitimate reasons, including the different market rates for different jobs in different sectors.”
The decision is anticipated to have indications for other supermarket equal pay claims, including a case Leigh Day is bringing on behalf of numerous Sainsbury’s workers.