An equal pay claim brought against retailer Asda is to proceed to the Employment Tribunal following a Court of Appeal decision published yesterday (22 June 2016).
The claim is being brought by more than 7,000 former and current Asda employees, the majority of which are women, who work in hourly-paid roles at Asda’s retail stores. The claimants allege that the value of the work they do is equal to that of employees working in Asda’s distribution centres, who are largely male. They argue that their pay should be comparable with those in the depots, claiming that historical discrimination has occurred and has not been corrected.
Asda denies that any discrimination occurred and argues that the claim should fail on merits.
The retail organisation contended that due to the complexity and potentially far-reaching impact of the case, the Employment Tribunal (ET) proceedings should be stayed and the claims pursued at the High Court.
This was rejected by the ET on the grounds that it did not have the power to impose a stay on proceedings and that, if it were to have that power, doing so would be inappropriate in this case.
Asda appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT), arguing that the ET does have that power and that it should have exercised it. The EAT upheld the ET’s decision.
An appeal against the latter decision was allowed. This appeal relates to the case proceedings rather than to the merits of the case itself.
The Court of Appeal hearing took place at on 26 May 2016 before Lord Justice Elias and Lord Justice Christopher Clarke.
The appeal was dismissed, with the Court of Appeal finding that it was not for the ET to relinquish jurisdiction in favour of the High Court and supporting the ET’s right to conclude that it would be inappropriate to transfer the case.
A spokesperson at Asda said: “The ruling from the Court of Appeal relates solely to the way the case will proceed in the courts, it has nothing to do with the merits of the case itself. While we disagree with the decision, we continue to strongly dispute the claims being made against us in the employment tribunal.
“This is a legal case about different rates of pay for different jobs. We believe that jobs in question are very different in terms of their demands, and we strongly dispute the claims being made. At Asda people doing the same job are paid the same. Men and women doing the same job in our retail stores are paid the same. Men and women doing the same job in our distribution and logistics centre are paid the same. Pay rates in stores and depots differ for legitimate reasons, including the different market rates for different jobs.”