What does the Asda ‘Equal Pay’ Supreme Court Judgement Mean?

29th March 2021 Employment

The case of Asda Stores Ltd v Brierley and others is a case that has been ongoing for a long period of time and is a landmark case for the retail sector.

Overview

In this case, Asda supermarket workers, mostly female, contended that the work they do on the shop floor in the supermarket is of equal value to the work undertaken by their predominantly male colleagues, working at Asda distribution sites and warehouses.
The Asda supermarket workers therefore argued that they should receive equal pay to that of their colleagues in the distribution arm of the business, who are paid at a higher rate of pay.

Previous Decisions

The Employment Tribunal decided in 2016 that Asda shop workers (mostly female) were entitled to equal pay to Asda warehouse workers (predominantly men).

The Employment Tribunal found that the roles were comparable and of equal value. Further, the decision to pay the warehouse workers was deemed indirect discrimination as women, who were more likely to work on the shop floor than men, were paid less despite their roles being comparable.

The Court of Appeal upheld this decision on 31 January 2019.Asda therefore appealed to the Supreme Court and there was a hearing on 13 July 2020.

Supreme Court Decision

The Judgement of the Supreme Court was handed down on 26 March 2021 and found that the 35,000 Asda supermarket workers could compare themselves to the distribution centre employees in terms of equal pay.

Implications

This is a significant ruling for the retail sector. In addition to the huge potential financial impact for Asda, the rest of the retail industry could now be exposed to similar group actions from their employees.

The next stage for the Supreme Court is to assess whether the store workers are of equal value to the distribution centre jobs.  As this case affects more women than men, if the next stage is successful, a third stage would consider whether other than gender, there are any other reasons as to why the roles should not have equal pay.

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Laura Pointon is a Senior Associate located in Manchesterin our Employment department

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