The UK Supreme Court on Friday permitted shop floor workers of Asda, a major supermarket retailer in the UK, to compare their roles to the roles of their colleagues in distribution centres to claim equal pay.
Asda’s shop floor workers, who are predominantly women, are seeking compensation for receiving less pay than their colleagues employed in distribution depots, who are mostly men, for doing work of equal value. The suit has been brought under the Equality Act 2010 as well as the earlier Equal Pay Act 1970, which was replaced by the 2010 legislation, because the dispute relates to periods when the earlier legislation was still in force. According to the law, the threshold requirement for equal pay claims is that the claimants must compare themselves to a valid comparator who is a real person employed by the same, or an associated employer.
The case was initially heard by the Employment Tribunal. Asda then appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the Court of Appeal where the appeals were subsequently dismissed. Following this, Asda appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and ruled that the workers can use terms and conditions of employment enjoyed by the distribution employees as a valid comparison. The court further clarified that the dismissal did not necessarily mean that the workers’ claims for equal pay succeeded.
Wendy Arundale, who worked for Asda for 32 years, said
I’m delighted that shop floor workers are one step closer to achieving equal pay. I loved my job, but knowing that male colleagues working in distribution centres were being paid more left a bitter taste in my mouth. It’s not much to ask to be paid an equal wage for work of equal value, and I’m glad that Supreme Court reached the same conclusion as all the other courts.