In a significant victory, thousands of female Asda workers have won their appeal in the Supreme Court for a case concerning equal pay.
The earlier ruling was that lower-paid workers in stores, who are predominantly women, should be paid equally to warehouse workers, who are primarily men and get a higher hourly rate.
The court upheld the claim. However, this doesn’t mean the employees have won their equal pay case. Instead, it means they can take further court action.
Asda store workers believe that they are being paid less because most store workers are women, while most of the workers in distribution centers are men. Typically, store workers are paid £1.50 – £3.00 per hour less for what they argue is a similar role.
The GMB union called the victory “amazing news” for shop floor workers at Asda. The union added that Asda has already wasted a lot of money on legal fees, and it called for the supermarket to reach an agreement with its members to provide compensation.
An Asda spokesperson noted, however, that this is a complex case that’s far from being resolved. The retailer is currently defending the claim as it insists that the retail and distribution jobs are different, and male and female colleagues are paid the same in these roles.
What happens next?
According to the lawyers involved in this lawsuit, this is a significant case as it could lead to other supermarkets and retailers facing similar challenges on pay.
Workers in other UK supermarkets, including Tesco, Morrisons, and Sainsbury’s, have already started their own equal pay claims, and they use similar models in their pay structures. If they all were to lose, the compensation could be up to £8 billion.
If Asda continues to fight this claim, it could become an ongoing battle. First, the workers will need to prove that their work is of equal value, both in terms of skills and training. They will also need to show that the reason their pay is different is their gender.
This case has been running since 2016, and the litigation could, according to the lawyers, continue for several years. The next stage could involve an employment tribunal, which would decide whether the two jobs are comparable and of “equal value.”
If the judges decide that they are of equal value, the third stage of the litigation would be to determine if there are other reasons the rates of pay differ. If it’s decided that the pay should be equal, Asda store workers could be entitled to a pay rise and compensation.