In a decision which could cost the supermarket giant millions of pounds, Asda has lost the first stage in its appeal to the Supreme Court in a landmark equal pay case.
On 26 March 2021, the Supreme Court upheld the findings of the Employment Tribunal and Court of Appeal – specifically that store workers can be compared to distribution centre positions when assessing equal pay.
Whilst this decision is clearly welcome news to the thousands of Asda employees involved in the claim, it is expected to take several more years to reach a conclusion.
That is because, whilst the first obstacle has been overcome, the Employment Tribunal will next need to consider whether store staff, who are predominantly women, are of equal value to distribution centre roles whereby the majority of employees are men.
Provided this can be established, the Employment Tribunal will then consider whether there is any other reason, save from gender, as to why the roles should not be paid equally.
Despite the Supreme Court’s recent decision, Asda has reportedly commented that “retail and distribution are very different sectors and their own distinct skill sets and pay rates” and men and women employed in those respective roles are paid equally. On that basis, it reportedly “remains confident” in its case.
The outcomes of this case will no doubt have significant implications for equal pay claims throughout the retail sector and beyond, and it has been reported that similar claims equal pay claims have already been commenced.