The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has decided that staff working in Asda stores can compare themselves to workers in the supermarket retailer’s depots for equal pay purposes.
In October 2016 Manchester Employment Tribunal ruled that roughly 7,000 current and former Asda employees, nearly all of them women, could bring an equal pay claim using their better-paid male colleagues in the distribution centres as comparators.
This could eventually mean a huge financial cost to Asda — at the time, it was thought the decision could cost the supermarket more than £100m, with claims dating back as far as 2002.
Asda had argued that different departments ran the two sectors and there were different methods of setting pay, so no comparison could be drawn. The retailer appealed the tribunal decision.
Asda’s appeal was dismissed by the EAT.
The decision could have implications for the wider retail industry and it is understood that, since the October 2016 ruling, the number of Asda workers who have given solicitors Leigh Day permission to present claims on their behalf has swelled to 15,000.
Hence, the floodgates could be opened to similar claims for retailers across the UK in relation to inconsistencies in the wages of staff on the shop floor compared to those in distribution centres.
Following the recent BBC equal pay news, this equal pay case again, with a well-known employer again brings into focus the equal pay agenda, and no doubt employees will be looking closely at their salaries and assessing, if not questioning how they measure up to their colleagues, regardless of where they work in a business.
Note: This EAT ruling and the October 2016 tribunal decision, relate to a technical preliminary issue of whether jobs in different parts of the business can be compared i.e. whether the store workers can compare themselves to the distribution workers. It is still yet to be decided whether those jobs are of equal value for equal pay law purposes.
The EAT have given Asda permission to appeal against this judgment to the Court of Appeal, which they will be sure to do given the cost implications.