Employees and businesses  have been alerted to the underpayment of wages worth thousands of pounds in damages following a major Employment Tribunal ruling involving supermarket giant Asda.

Whilst these claims are nothing new (equal pay between men and women has been law since the Equal Pay Act 1970) the majority of the 1,300 or so claims submitted each month have been against public sector employers.

This is by far the biggest equal pay case in the private sector and is already having far-reaching implications with 400 Sainsbury’s workers bringing similar claims.

The Tribunal ruled that Asda may have to adjust the pay of 130,000 of its shop floor staff, with up to 14 years’ back pay for 7,000 workers. Some have estimated this could cost the retailer £100 million.

The landmark case centres on a dispute involving female supermarket staff who had compared themselves with higher-paid male workers in distribution centres. In equal pay cases, the comparator must be doing ‘like work’, ‘work rated as equivalent’ or ‘work of equal value’ to the claimant.

Asda had tried to argue that because the stores and distribution centres were in different locations, with different pay arrangements, it could justify paying men and women differently. The Tribunal didn’t agree – deciding that Asda chose not to make sure there was equal pay between its male and female workers – the jobs in its stores and the distribution centres could be comparable.

The publicity around the case will give the green light to women in workplaces up and down the county to bring proceedings if they are able to clearly demonstrate they were not given equal pay for equal work.

Employers must make sure they are prepared and understand exactly what steps they should be taking to protect themselves.


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