Asda fails to block ‘landmark’ equal pay tribunal


Supermarket giant Asda has failed to halt an employment tribunal being brought by more than 7,000 former and current workers over equal pay.

The claimants, the majority of whom are female and worked as checkout staff and shelf stackers, argue that their jobs are comparable to the organisation’s warehouse roles, which are male-dominated and generally better paid. According to the group, represented by law firm Leigh Day, the warehouse workers earn up to £4 an hour more than the shop-floor workers, a pay discrepancy that they claim is the result of gender bias.

Asda maintains there has been no discrimination and requested to have the employment tribunal proceedings stayed indefinitely, which would have driven employees to take the case to the High Court. After the stay was rejected by the tribunal, the company challenged the decision in the Court of Appeal, a claim that was overturned on Wednesday.

The Court of Appeal judges ruled that the case was “highly exceptional”, and that an employment tribunal would have a greater degree of expertise for handling it.

In October 2012, Leigh Day won a ruling in the Supreme Court that extended the time limit for people to bring a claim of equal pay discrimination after leaving the employer. A win for the claimants could cost Asda six years’ worth of wage disparities.

Lord Justice Elias, who delivered the Court of Appeal ruling, described the case as the most complex and financially significant equal pay claim to be pursued in the private sector. The conclusion will have a huge effect not only on Asda, but throughout the retail trade.

An Asda spokesperson said: “The ruling from the Court of Appeal relates solely to the way the case will proceed in the courts – it has nothing to do with the merits of the case itself. Whilst we respect the Court’s decision, we continue to strongly dispute the claims being made against us in the employment tribunal.

“This is a legal case about different rates of pay for different jobs. We believe the jobs in question are very different in terms of their demands, and we strongly dispute the claims being made.

“At Asda, people doing the same job 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 and logistics centre are paid the same. Pay rates in stores and depots differ for legitimate reasons, including the different market rates for different jobs.”

A seven-day hearing involving 400 of the claimants began at the Manchester Employment Tribunal on 20 June 2016. Further developments are expected next week.


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