An equal pay case involving 400 female employees of supermarket ASDA could bring about a number of similar claims elsewhere in the private sector.
The case concerns equal pay claims from about 7,000 current and former hourly paid store colleagues, of which approximately 30% are male. The women, who work as check-out staff and shelf stackers, claim that the (predominantly male) workers in ASDA’s distribution depots are doing work of equal value to them, and yet are being paid substantially more. Counsel for ASDA argued that the case could have an “enormous effect” on the retail trade and, given the importance and the complexity, he argued that the High Court would deal with the case better than the Employment Tribunal.
The Court of Appeal upheld the decision that the Tribunal did not have power to impose a stay for the purpose of forcing the Claimants to transfer the claim to the High Court. Although the Equality Act gives the High Court power to transfer an equal pay claim to the Tribunal, the Tribunal has no equivalent power to transfer a claim to the High Court.
The Claimants (the 400 women) had a clear statutory right to choose the appropriate forum in which to bring their claim.
The ASDA equal pay litigation can now proceed in the Employment Tribunal, following the decision by the Court of Appeal handed down on 22 June 2016 ( Asda Stores Ltd v Brierley & Ors
Victory at Employment Tribunal could cost ASDA six years' worth of wages disparities and put other retailers running their own distribution centres at risk.
This could also affect any sector that has predominantly female groups of employees doing work which could potentially be rated as equal in value to the work done by predominantly male groups of employees. If this is the case in your organisation, it is worthwhile reviewing pay practices now and have a clear plan to address disparities rather than be forced to do so later... Be warned.