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Asda faces immense legal action from staff over pay inequality

27 Oct 2014

Fashion

Asda, the UK's second largest retailer, is currently facing legal action from thousands of female employees over pay inequality. Thousands of female shop floor staff claim that they are paid less than their male counterparts working in warehouses, despite their jobs being of equal value to Asda.



Law firm Leigh Day, which is taking legal action against Asda, revealed that it has been approached by over 19,000 current or former Asda employees since announcing in April that the firm was representing 400 Asda members. So far, over 1,000 employment tribunal claims have been lodged.

According to the law firm, the case has potential to become the largest employment claim in the private sector in history. Asda currently employs 170,000 members of staff across 370 stores and may be forced to pay staff the difference in salary going back six years, if the retailer loses the claim.

Legal action could have "enormous" implications for Asda

Michael Newman, discrimination and employment law expert at Leigh Day, warned that the legal claims against Asda could have “enormous” implications for the UK's second largest retailer, as well as other UK retailers.

“In the supermarkets the checkout staff and shelf-stackers are mostly women. The people in the warehouses are pretty much all men. And, as a whole, the group that is mostly men gets paid more,” explained Newman.

“Our investigations suggest that the jobs are pretty much the same, in that warehouse staff are responsible for taking items off shelves, putting them on pallets and loading them into lorries. In the supermarket, they do the reverse: taking the pallets off the lorries, unstacking them and putting the items on the shelves. Where the jobs are not similar, we still think they are of equal value.”

Lauren Loughheed, the solicitor with Leigh Day who is leading the case, revealed to the BBC that the pay difference between shop and warehouse workers could be as high as 4 pounds an hour, which could mean a world of difference to employees currently earning 7 pounds an hour.

The

majority of Asda employees taking legal action are women, but there are a number of male member of staff working in stores who are also taking part in the legal process. They will also receive a pay increase if the legal action taken on behalf of the women under the equal pay comes out in their favor.

A spokesperson for Asda stressed that the retailer does not discriminate based on gender, adding: “A firm of no win, no fee lawyers are hoping to challenge our award-winning reputation as an equal opportunities employer. We do not discriminate and are very proud of our record in this area which, if it comes to it, we will robustly defend.”

The cases, which are likely to be heard sometime next year, highlight the ongoing issue of equal pay within the public and private sector. Loughheed added that the private sector has been slower to act so far, but that this case could “prove a watershed”.

“Although there have been huge advancements in equal pay within the public sector, there is still a long way to go in the private sector,” added Newman. “Compulsory audits are the only way to make sure the gender pay gap is being narrowed. Until now cases simply have not been brought, so you still get very segregated workplaces.”


ASDA
Leigh Day