Around 9,500 female workers at Asda have won the right to bring a claim for equal pay against the retailer. If the women are successful with their claim, Asda could be forced to back pay up to £100m dating back to 2002, and adjust wages for around 130,000 supermarket staff.
It comes after an employment tribunal ruled that the women, who mainly carry out in-store duties, can compare their roles to higher paid warehouse positions largely taken up by men.
The women are challenging pay differences between shopfloor and warehouse jobs, which sees warehouse staff earn between £1-£3 more than those based in store.
The claim asserts that the women are paid less than workers at distribution centres because their jobs were historically perceived as “women’s work” and therefore thought to be of less value than men’s work.
Lauren Lougheed, a lawyer at Leigh Day, the firm representing the workers said: “This is a dramatic victory for the workers we represent.
“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.”
In a statement, Asda asserted that the demands of the jobs were different and that men and women were paid the same when they performed the same roles as men.
Asda said: “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.”
“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.”