It's a big week for equal pay issues. On Monday, 20 June
2016, a seven day hearing began in the largest private sector equal
pay claim ever. It is estimated that the claim against ASDA could
be worth over one hundred million pounds. Worrying news for ASDA of
course, however, the decision could also have wide-ranging
implications for other employers, particularly those in the retail
In October 2014, an equal pay test case was brought on behalf of
400 workers against ASDA. The key point in this case is the issue
of job evaluation. Any female employee is entitled to enjoy
contractual terms that are as favourable as those of a male
comparator, if they are employed in jobs of equal work. There are
three categories of equal work: 'like work', 'work
rated as equivalent' and 'work of equal value'. The
relevant category in the ASDA case is 'work of equal
The case has been tied up in a number of preliminary
hearings but, this week, Employment Judge Ryan, sitting in the
Manchester Employment Tribunal, will be asked to determine whether
the supermarket's in-store staff jobs, which are mainly held by
female workers, are of equal value, and are therefore comparable,
to higher-paid jobs in the company's male-dominated
If the Tribunal does in fact find that the roles constitute
equal work, workers could be entitled to six years' back pay
for the difference in earnings. This is in light of the
'landmark' 2012 case involving equal pay claims against
Birmingham City Council, in which the Supreme Court held that
affected employees could launch pay equality compensation claims in
the High Court, essentially extending the time limit for bringing a
claim to six years (as opposed to the six-month limit in the
It's likely that this case has a long way to go and I
anticipate that, whatever the Employment Tribunal's decision,
the future may hold a number of appeals to the higher courts.
However, given the potential consequences of this claim, we will be
following it with hawk eyes. Continue to watch out for updates on
this case on our UK Employment Hub as the story unfolds.
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