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​Latest hearing to begin in UK's largest equal pay battle

The latest stage of the UK's largest ever private sector equal pay claim, being brought against supermarket giant Asda on behalf of over 15,000 mostly female workers, takes place this week at employment tribunal in Manchester with a stage one equal value hearing.

Posted on 10 October 2017

The hearing on Wednesday 11th October 2017 and Thursday 12th October 2017, follows a judgment in October last year which found that lower paid shop workers, who are mostly women, can compare themselves to higher paid workers in Asda’s distribution centres, who are mostly men.

This week’s equal value hearing will be asked to decide the process for writing and agreeing job descriptions for the women and men’s jobs.

When the two job descriptions are agreed by the tribunal, they will then go on to give both job descriptions a score.

If the scores are the same (or the one submitted by the shop workers is higher) then there is equal value and the two jobs should therefore be paid the same.
The 15,000  former and current employees of the supermarket chain feel they have been paid less than others within the organisation despite carrying out roles of equal value.
Asda initially tried to stop the claims from proceeding in the employment tribunal, arguing that they should be heard in the High Court, however, the Court of Appeal ruled that the employment tribunal is the appropriate place for the women’s claims to proceed.

In October 2016, Employment Judge Ryan ruled after a two-week hearing in June 2016 that the predominantly female store workforce could compare themselves to male colleagues.

Asda appealed the tribunal’s decision on ten different grounds. All were unsuccessful. 

The Honourable Mr Justice Kerr concluded in August 2017 that the employment tribunal had been correct in saying that shop workers could be compared to the distribution workers: 

In his appeal ruling Mr Justice Kerr stated: “I find no lack of rationality or perversity in the judge’s reasoning […] the judge’s overall conclusion that the terms were common in the statutory sense is not impeachable.” Asda are now appealing this decision in the Court of Appeal, with a hearing due to take place before October 2018.

The claims against Asda brought by Leigh Day could see workers recovering over £100 million.
Linda Wong, a lawyer in the employment team at Leigh Day, who is representing the Asda workers, said:
“We are pleased that this claim has been able to reach this crucial stage when the job descriptions can be compared and the tribunal will be able to assess the vital role that store staff play, given that they are the face of the company and their interaction with customers is seen as the key to the success of Asda and its American owners, Walmart.”

According to the latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics, the gender pay gap for full-time employees in 2016 was 9.4%. This means that the average pay for full-time female employees was 9.4% lower than for full-time male employees. The gap for all employees (full-time and part-time) has reduced from 19.3% in 2015 to 18.1% in 2016.