Asda has lost a Court of Appeal ruling which upholds store staff claims that their work is comparable to work in distribution centres, and therefore eligible for the same pay.
The retailer was challenging a 2017 decision from the Employment Tribunal which ruled Asda’s staff on the shop floor were comparable to workers in their giant distribution centres.
Today’s judgement bolsters the store staff case that they should be paid the same as their warehouse co-workers.
The case tapped into a wider gender imbalance between staff roles, with Asda distribution centre employees mostly men, while women mostly work on the shop floor.
The hearing will also influence similar court cases with the remaining big four supermarkets, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons, where shop floor staff are paid less than distribution roles.
The law firm Leigh Day, which represented workers in the case, estimated the total claims against the big four supermarkets if they lose their cases and are ordered to pay all eligible staff could be over £8 billion.
Linda Wong a lawyer from the employment team at Leigh Day who is working on behalf of supermarket workers in these equal pay claims, said: “Our clients are obviously delighted to have won this major victory against Asda.
“We now hope that rather than continuing to spend huge sums of money thwarting attempts to pay their staff what they are worth, Asda and the other major supermarkets pay their staff fairly as these workers are also their customers and fair wages benefit all businesses and UK society in general.
“We call on Wal-Mart to lead the change for those hard-working store staff who are their workers and the public face of Asda.”
Asda is understood to be planning an appeal against the ruling. A spokesman for the company said: "We are obviously disappointed with the decision, which relates to a preliminary issue of whether jobs in different parts of the business can be compared.
"Asda brought this appeal because it involved complex legal issues which have never been fully tested in the private sector and we will continue to ensure this case is given the legal scrutiny it deserves.
"We remain confident in our case. This appeal has caused no delay to the main case, which has been continuing in the employment tribunal."