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Asda Female Workers 'Win Right' To Sue Supermarket For Being Paid Less Than Men 'For Jobs Of Equal Value'

'Asda could have made sure that there was equal pay between men and women but chose not to.'

14/10/2016 15:52

Thousands of Asda’s female workers are free to pursue £100 million worth of equal pay claims after a “dramatic” employment tribunal victory, according to a law firm.

Leigh Day, which represents 7,000 mainly female workers from Asda’s stores, says they are now able to lodge claims that they are paid less than other employees for doing “women’s work”.

The female workers in Asda’s shops say they are paid less than the mostly male workers in its distribution warehouses, despite their jobs being of “equal value”.

Jason Senior/Asda/PA Wire
One of Asda's female employees

The legal action is believed to be the largest of its kind in the private sector and could lead to payouts totalling £100 million if the women are successful, Sky reports.

Asda tried and failed to block the women’s claims in a case that went to the Court of Appeal.

Today’s ruling from an employment tribunal means that the women are able to compare their jobs at Asda’s retail stores with the jobs of their colleagues who work in distribution centres, in what could be a historic case.

The women are mostly paid by the hour for in-store work and their claims are expected to date as far back as 2002.

The case could have serious ramifications for other retail companies if the women are successful, The BBC reported.

Lauren Lougheed, a lawyer representing the women, told Sky News: “Asda tried to argue that because the shops and distribution centres were in different locations, with different pay arrangements, that Asda could pay the men what
they like.

“However, the employment tribunal found that Asda, the employer of both men and women, could have made sure that there was equal pay between men and women if they wanted to, but chose not to.

“This judgment will have far-reaching implications on other supermarket equal pay claims including those we are bringing on behalf of around 400 Sainsbury’s workers who are in a similar situation.”

Asda said in a statement that the result of the tribunal hearing did not necessarily mean the women could pursue their claims: “This decision by the employment tribunal does not determine the eventual outcome of the case. It relates to a technical preliminary issue of whether jobs in different parts of the business can be compared.

Gideon Mendel via Getty Images
Asda workers look down on staff at the Monks Cross branch

“The tribunal has yet to consider whether the jobs are of equal value in terms of their demands and if some jobs are, only then will the tribunal move on to consider the reasons for the differentials, including the existence of different
market rates in different industry sectors.

“We continue to strongly dispute the claims being made against us. We believe that the demands of the jobs are very different and are considering our options for appeal.

“At Asda, hourly-paid colleagues doing the same job in the same location are paid the same. Men and women doing the same job in our retail stores are paid the same. Men and women doing the same job in our distribution centres are paid the same.

“Pay rates in stores differ from pay rates in distribution centres for legitimate reasons, including the different market rates for different jobs in different sectors.”

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