ASDA loses legal battle with 40,000 workers over equal pay

26 March 2021, 10:23 | Updated: 26 March 2021, 14:42

Asda bosses have lost a Supreme Court equal pay fight
Asda bosses have lost a Supreme Court equal pay fight. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Asda bosses have lost a Supreme Court equal pay fight with store workers.

More than 40,000 Asda store workers, about two-thirds of whom are women, brought equal pay claims saying staff working in distribution depots, most of whom are men, unfairly get more money.

Asda bosses said store jobs are not comparable to distribution centre jobs. Supreme Court justices on Friday ruled against Asda bosses.

They decided that store workers were entitled to compare themselves to distribution staff for equal pay purposes.

READ MORE: Why the Asda equal pay verdict feels 'significant'

Store workers, who are represented by law firm Leigh Day, have made sex-discrimination claims.

They say store workers have historically got less because most store workers are women, and most distribution depot staff are men.

Lawyers representing store workers say distribution depot workers get between £1.50 and £3.00 an hour more.

The litigation began some years ago.

In 2016, an employment tribunal decided that store workers were entitled to compare themselves to distribution staff.

That decision was upheld by Court of Appeal judges in 2019. Asda bosses then appealed to the Supreme Court.

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An Asda spokesman said: "This ruling relates to one stage of a complex case that is likely to take several years to reach a conclusion.

"We are defending these claims because the pay in our stores and distribution centres is the same for colleagues doing the same jobs regardless of their gender.

"Retail and distribution are very different sectors with their own distinct skill sets and pay rates.

"Asda has always paid colleagues the market rate in these sectors and we remain confident in our case."

ASDA store staff complained that staff working in distribution depots unfairly get more money
ASDA store staff complained that staff working in distribution depots unfairly get more money. Picture: Getty
Supreme Court Justices ruled against ASDA bosses
Supreme Court Justices ruled against ASDA bosses. Picture: PA

Women who worked at Asda welcomed a court decision on equal pay, but said the supermarket giant should have resolved the issue years ago.

Kate Gorton, one of the claimants in the case said that the difference between the pay of workers on the shop floor and distribution centres is "significant".

Ms Gorton, who worked in Asda stores in Stoke-on-Trent and Coventry between 2011 and 2019, said: "The difference in pay was between £1 and £4 an hour. This case goes back to 2016 so Asda should have resolved it a long time ago.

"The difference in pay still goes on today."

Wendy Arundale, who worked for Asda for 32 years, added: "I'm delighted that shop floor workers are one step closer to achieving equal pay.

"I loved my job, but knowing that male colleagues working in distribution centres were being paid more left a bitter taste in my mouth.

"It's not much to ask to be paid an equal wage for work of equal value, and I'm glad the Supreme Court reached the same conclusion as all the other courts."