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Asda workers can make equal pay claim – tribunal ruling

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Over 7,000 Asda store workers will be able to take a claim against their employer over equal pay, after a tribunal hearing.

Q. What’s the case about?

A. A number of women who work or have worked in Asda stores wanted to take Asda to a tribunal for not paying them the same as men who work in the distribution centres.

Asda had argued that the cases should be heard in the High Court and not an employment tribunal. However the Court of Appeal said that it should take place in an employment tribunal. On Friday, following a two week hearing in June, the judge ruled that over 7,000 Asda workers can make an equal pay claim. He said that the jobs of the (largely female) shop workers could be compared with those of the (mainly) men who work in the distribution centres.

Q. How important is this tribunal case?

A. It’s important because it allows those who believe they’ve not received equal pay to make a claim in a tribunal and not a court. The claim itself is important because it’s the biggest ever private sector equal pay claim. It could mean that store workers (who are mostly, but not exclusively women) could be repaid over £100 million going back to 2002. Solicitors Leigh Day who are representing current and former workers say that this claim may be followed by new claims from employees who were waiting to see the results of this tribunal.

Lauren Lougheed a lawyer in the employment team at Leigh Day said: “This is a dramatic victory for the workers we represent. Asda tried to argue that because the shops and distribution centres were in different locations, with different pay arrangements, that Asda could pay the men what they like.

However, it doesn’t mean that the women have yet been awarded equal pay. This tribunal only ruled that the jobs the (mainly) women did in the stores could be compared to the jobs in the distribution centre, not that pay rates should be equal.

Q. What does Asda say?

A. Asda says that this isn’t a ruling on whether or not it should have paid the workers in the stores the same as those in distribution centres.

In a statement, it said: We continue to strongly dispute the claims being made against us. We believe that the demands of the jobs are very different and are considering our options for appeal.”

“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.”

Q. What happens next?

A. The next stage is for test cases on equal claims to be brought before an employment tribunal.