Asda shopworkers win major ruling in equal pay dispute

Asda shopworkers have finally won a significant victory in the latest round of a long-running legal battle over equal pay, which could result in supermarkets facing an estimated £8bn payout.

The court of appeal ruled Asda’s lower-paid store staff, who are mainly female, can compare themselves to higher-paid warehouse workers, who are mainly male, in pay claims.

The Asda case is the furthest along of all the supermarket equal pay claims.

Linda Wong from Leigh Day who represented the workers, said:

Our clients are obviously delighted to have won this major victory against Asda and we now hope that rather than continuing to spend huge sums of money thwarting attempts to pay their staff what they are worth, Asda and the other major supermarkets will pay their staff fairly as these workers are also their customers and fair wages benefit all businesses and UK society in general.

Asda said it was obviously disappointed with the ruling, The supermarket said:

At Asda, our hourly rates of pay in stores are the same for female and male colleagues and this is equally true in our depots. Pay rate in stores differ from pay rates in distribution centres because the demands of the jobs in store and the jobs in distribution centres are very different; they operate in different market sectors and we pay the market rates in those sectors regardless of gender.

Dean Forbes, CEO at CoreHR, shares his thoughts below on what this ruling means for HR and management:

This case hammers home the reality that there are no easy answers to ensuring equal pay across complex organisations. The changing nature of work, coupled with evolving legislation, means HR and management must evaluate workers with vastly different experience and skill sets.

That’s a difficult task for any organisation, but for those with a workforce in the thousands, it is simply not possible without the help of technology and data analytics. Truly understanding your organisation through data will highlight troubling statistics. If the average female employee is earning less than the average male employee, there is likely something to be done.

Martha McKinley, Solicitor at the national law firm, Stephensons, commented,

While it remains early days in this complex and long-running case, this judgment represents a significant step forward in the equal pay debate and will be warmly welcomed by the thousands of other supermarket workers on the same journey as those at ASDA.

Women’s roles in the workplace have long been undervalued. The compelling evidence of pay disparity and the sheer volume of claimants in this case should act as a significant wake-up call for organisations across every industry.

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