Asda has lost the first stage of its appeal in a landmark equal pay case that could cost the supermarket giant millions of pounds.
The Supreme Court this morning upheld the findings of a 2016 employment tribunal and a Court of Appeal case in 2019, which ruled that roles of Asda store workers can be compared to distribution centre positions when assessing equal pay.
More than 40,000 Asda store workers, about two-thirds of whom are women, have recently brought equal pay claims after complaining that staff working in distribution depots unfairly get more money.
The UK’s highest court has now backed the Court of Appeal judgment.
Law firm Leigh Day, which is representing around 44,000 Asda workers, says distribution depot workers get between £1.50 and £3 an hour more and that the issue has far wider implications across the economy.
Lauren Lougheed, a partner at Leigh Day, said of the ruling: “We are delighted that our clients have cleared such a big hurdle in their fight for equal pay.
“Already an employment tribunal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal ruled that these roles can be compared, and now the Supreme Court has come to the same conclusion.
“It’s our hope that Asda will now stop dragging its heels and pay their staff what they are worth.”
The case, which stems from a 2016 employment tribunal decision on pay going back to 2002, pre-dates the £6.8bn sale of Asda by US grocery giant Walmart to a consortium earlier this year.
An Asda spokesman said there was a long way to go before the issues were finally settled: “This ruling relates to one stage of a complex case that is likely to take several years to reach a conclusion.
“We are defending these claims because the pay in our stores and distribution centres is the same for colleagues doing the same jobs regardless of their gender. Retail and distribution are very different sectors with their own distinct skill sets and pay rates.”
It said it had always paid its staff the market rate for these sectors and it remained confident in its case.