Those who work in the supermarkets – who are mostly women – are paid less than depot staff, who are mostly men. The claimants seek to argue that the difference in salary is a form of gender discrimination and hope to secure equal pay.
Should they be successful, the case could set a precedent that would see a pay rise for hundreds of thousands of retail staff across the UK, as similar claims are also being brought against other supermarket chains.
This was the third time the case had been heard by employment judges, as Asda appealed the Employment Tribunal’s decision at the Employment Appeal Tribunal before progressing to the Court of Appeal. Their rulings have sided with the workers each time. Although Asda attempted to challenge the judgment once more at the Supreme Court, its application to do so was refused.
The next stages for the claimants will now be to return to the Employment Tribunal to determine whether the roles of supermarket staff and depot workers are of “equal value” for the purposes of an equal pay claim. A ruling will also need to be made on whether the discrepancy constitutes discrimination.
Linda Wong, a lawyer from the employment team at Leigh Day, representing the claimants, 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 pay their staff fairly – as these workers are also their customers and fair wages benefit all businesses and UK society in general.”
Tim Roache, General Secretary of the union for Asda workers, GMB, added: “We welcome this decision, we’ll always pursue justice and equality for our members and this decision is undoubtedly the right one.
“We know we’re not all the way there, there are more hurdles to jump in this process and as always we remain ready to negotiate should Asda want to get round the table.”