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Legal action over supermarket equal pay claims

Equal pay lawyers confirm legal action against Asda over allegations of inequality in pay

Posted on 12 April 2014

Lawyers from the equal pay team at Leigh Day have announced that they are taking legal action against Asda on behalf of over 400 workers.

Speaking to the Guardian newspaper Michael Newman from the team confirmed that the cases would determine if the mainly female store staff jobs were of equal value to higher-paid jobs in the male-dominated distribution centres.

If successful, those workers who allege they have been underpaid could be entitled to six years' back pay for the difference in earnings.

The cases are possible because Asda, which employs 172,000 staff, owns and operates its own distribution warehouses.

Other supermarkets that also own their distribution centres, including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer and John Lewis could also face legal action.

Michael Newman from the employment team at Leigh Day told the Guardian that: "The implications for any supermarket are enormous," 

"In the supermarkets check-out staff and shelf-stackers are mostly women. The people in the warehouses are pretty much all men. And, who would be surprised, the group that is mostly men gets paid more,"

"We are very confident that the jobs are pretty much the same. In the warehouses they take stuff off the shelves, put it on a pallet and stick it on a lorry. In the supermarket, they do the reverse: take the pallets off the lorry, unstack them and put stuff on the shelves."

"There has been huge advancement in equal pay within the public sector. But in the private sector it is still the 1970s. Job evaluations don't happen. Cases aren't brought. So you still get this very segregated workplace. Women are over here doing the women's work and men are over there doing men's work."

The legal action against Asda is expected to be heard within the next two months at Manchester employment tribunal.

In October 2012 Leigh Day won in the Supreme Court which ruled that equal pay claims could be brought in the High Court up to six years after leaving employment where pay discrimination may have occurred.

The judgment effectively extended the time limit for equal pay claims from six months to six years, the biggest change to Equal Pay legislation since it was introduced in 1970, with huge implications for thousands of workers.