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Asda workers overcome latest hurdle in battle for equal pay

Asda retail workers fighting for equal pay have overcome another hurdle in the legal process following a judgment handed down by the Employment Tribunal last week.

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22 January 2020

The mainly female employees from the shop floor are claiming equal pay for work of equal value when compared to predominantly male employees who work in Asda’s distribution centres. 

The Stage 2 Equal Value hearing was held at Manchester Employment Tribunal sitting at Manchester Crown Court over several dates in 2019, concluding on 7 June.

The purpose of the hearing was to decide which information will be included in the job descriptions of six female retail workers, and seven male comparators working in the distribution centres. It is these detailed documents that independent experts will use to carry out a scoring exercise for the retail and distribution roles.

The job descriptions of the six women are representative of thousands of claimants in the same roles who form part of the total group of almost 40,000 shop floor workers of which half are GMB members.

This was the first of a number of ‘Stage 2’ hearings for claimants and their comparators. The tribunal considered 20,000 pages of documents and independent experts visited the Asda Wigan store and Skelmersdale distribution centre to observe the jobs being carried out and the working conditions.

The Equality Act 2010 says that even if work is not alike and not rated as equivalent, it can be equal in terms of the demands made, looking at things like effort, skill and decision-making.

The independent experts will examine how the jobs compare in terms of knowledge, experience, responsibility for planning, maintaining stocks, looking after finance, health and safety, data handling, the need for concentration, the stress of the job, problem solving, communication, physical skills and working conditions. Once the hearings have concluded the independent experts will compile their final report which will be used to decide if the jobs are of equal value.

The claimants achieved a more favourable outcome on some of the most important aspects of the job role, such as product knowledge. Judge Ryan, sitting with Ms JK Williamson and Mr AJ Gill, concluded that Asda’s submission regarding the women’s job descriptions “did not go far enough as to acquiring and using knowledge” following assessment of this factor.

With regards to the targets set for retail workers, the tribunal found that Asda’s suggestion that ’no-one minds‘ if work was not done on time and there was no pressure to get the store stocked and ready to meet peak customer demand, was “not plausible nor consistent with the evidence”.

Lauren Lougheed, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, said: 

"This is yet another positive step forward in our case for over almost 40,000 Asda shop floor workers. Most significantly, Asda’s suggestion that our clients were not required to have any particular knowledge about products in order to do their jobs was completely dismissed by the Employment Tribunal.

"Although we still have many stages of the case to go, we continue to rack up the victories for our clients towards their ultimate goal of achieving equal pay.”

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