Asda has lost the first round of an equal pay case at the Supreme Court, with the Court ruling that warehouse and shop floor staff roles can be compared.
The Supreme Court has today ruled against the supermarket Asda in a long-running case which could have major implications for equal pay.
The Court ruled unanimously that staff who work in-store at Asda who are mainly women can compare their job with the jobs of their colleagues working in the company’s distribution centres who are mainly men.
In her judgment, 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”.
The ruling is the first stage in a three-stage equal pay claim which has huge implications for workers.
The case and other similar ones of supermarket workers has been taken up by the law firm Leigh Day. It says it is not arguing that store workers do the same job as warehouse workers but that their different jobs are of equal value to Asda.
This decision by the Court means that in law these different jobs can be compared with each other. The next stage is for the courts to decide if the jobs are of equal value and the last stage is to rule whether, if they are, is there a reason other than sex discrimination that means the roles should not be paid equally.
Leigh Day is representing more than 44,000 Asda workers, many of whom are supported by their trade union GMB.
The firm also represents clients from Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, the Co-op and Next in similar equal pay cases which may be impacted by this judgment.
Lauren Lougheed, a partner in the employment team at Leigh Day, said of today’s ruling: “We are delighted that our clients have cleared such a big hurdle in their fight for equal pay.
“Already an employment tribunal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal ruled that these roles can be compared, and now the Supreme Court has come to the same conclusion.
“It’s our hope that Asda will now stop dragging its heels and pay their staff what they are worth.”
The GMB union is calling on Asda to negotiate to reach an agreement on back pay for its members.