Employment and Industrial Relations Law

Asda workers win latest round of long-running equal pay fight

06 Apr 2021

2 min read

A Supreme Court decision has given more than 44,000 Asda employees victory in their fair pay fight with their employers paving the way for a legal battle that could last years. The UK’s highest court agreed with a Court of Appeal judgment ruling that store workers are able to compare themselves to distribution workers for fair pay purposes. Asda, the UK’s third largest supermarket, was appealing against a Court of Appeal ruling in 2019 that allowed lower-paid store employees, mostly women, to compare themselves to those distribution centre workers, mostly men, who are given a higher pay. The store had previously lost the case in the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Equal pay claims have been filed by the staff, mainly women and members of the GMB union, alleging that those working in the supermarket’s warehouses, who are predominantly men, are wrongly getting paid more. The fact that the distribution depot staff receive between £1.50 and £3 an hour more, may have greater economic consequences.

The Supreme Court’s ruling only relates to the first part of the Asda workers’ claim. For an overall victory, the workers also need a ruling that all positions at the workplace are of equal importance. If the jobs are determined to be of equal value, it must then be decided if there is a reason other than sex discrimination, that the positions should not be rewarded equally. The outcome of the landmark case, being the biggest-ever equal pay claim in the UK private sector, will most definitely have repercussions for about 8,000 workers at other supermarkets, such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co-op and Morrisons, who are also going through equal pay disputes with their employers.