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Supreme court to hear Asda equal pay case

Asda shop floor workers are demanding equal pay to those who work in warehouses. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA

The UK’s supreme court will decide whether shop floor workers at Asda can be compared with warehouse staff for the purposes of equal pay.

The shop floor staff, who are mostly women, argue they should be paid the same as predominantly-male distribution centre workers.

The case, which is believed to be the biggest-ever equal pay case in the UK, is brought by over 35,000 workers, who are represented by law firm Leigh Day.

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Asda has already appealed the rulings of three courts. It now has one final chance to prove the roles are not comparable in the UK’s final court of appeal for civil cases.

The Employment Tribunal ruled against the supermarket in October 2016, deciding the roles are comparable for the purposes of equal pay.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal made the same ruling in August 2017. This was followed by yet another ruling against Asda by the court of appeal in January of this year.

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Lauren Lougheed, solicitor at Leigh Day representing Asda workers, said in a statement on the firm’s website: “It is disappointing that Asda has refused to accept the ruling of three courts on the issue of comparability.

“However, our clients from Asda and across all the big five supermarkets should not be disheartened. We are as determined as ever to continue their fight for equal pay.

“We hope we can win on this issue for the fourth time in the supreme court, to prove once and for all that the roles are comparable, and continue on to win the overall fight for equal pay for our clients.”

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The date for Asda’s final appeal at the court has not been set.

Leigh Day is also representing 5,000 shop floor workers at Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons and the Co-op in similar cases that will be impacted by the judgment.

If Asda loses the case, it could be ordered to pay a total of £8bn to eligible staff, the law firm said.

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However, if the supreme court rules that the roles are comparable, staff will still need to demonstrate that they are of equal value.

Asda described the case as “complex”, and said that without precedence in the private sector, it is “vital the issues are given the legal scrutiny they deserve”.

Whatever the final outcome, the implications for UK businesses – not just in retail – will be far-reaching, it added.

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A spokesperson told Personnel Today: “Leigh Day have also appealed points they have lost.

“None of the appeals have caused any delay to the case, which continues to progress through the tribunal, but it will still take many years to conclude.

“Our hourly rates of pay in stores are the same for female and male colleagues. Pay rates in stores differ from pay rates in distribution centres because the demands of the jobs are very different.”