Supreme court win for Asda store workers in dispute over equal pay

Thousands of employees of Leeds-headquartered Asda supermarket workers have won a significant victory at the Supreme Court.

The court has upheld an earlier court ruling that lower-paid shop staff, who are mainly women, can compare themselves with higher paid warehouse workers, who are mostly men.

The judge said the ruling did not mean the 44,000 claimants had won the right to equal pay. But it means they are now free to take further action.

Susan Harris, the GMB union’s legal director, responded: “Asda has wasted money on lawyers’ bills chasing a lost cause, losing appeal after appeal, while tens of thousands of retail workers remain out of pocket.

“We now call on Asda to sit down with us to reach agreement on the back pay owed to our members – which could run to hundreds of millions of pounds.”

But commenting to the BBC, an Asda spokesman said the issues have yet to be finally settled, adding: “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.”

The store workers say they are paid less because most of them are women, while most distribution depot staff are men.

Lawyers for the store workers say the depot workers were paid between £1.50 and £3 an hour more. Asda said it had always paid the correct rate for the job, whether male or female.

In 2016, an employment tribunal ruled store workers were entitled to compare themselves to distribution staff and this decision was upheld by Court of Appeal judges in 2019. Asda then lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court.