Should men and women in different locations be compared for equal pay claims?
A key issue in the ongoing equal pay claim brought by Asda employees has been decided by the Employment Tribunal, meaning that the group of female Asda store employees can proceed with their claims to the next stage.
The Equality Act 2010 implements the principle that men and women should receive equal payment for equal work.
In making a clam for equal pay employees must show that compared to a person of the opposite sex doing like work they are paid less.
In this case a group of female employees employed at the Asda stores have claimed that they are being paid less than their male colleagues who are employed at Asda’s warehouse distribution centres. They have claimed that the work in store is ‘women’s work’ as they are predominantly women and are paid less because it is classified as ‘women’s work’ whereas those working in the distribution centres are predominantly male and are paid more, between £1-£3 per hour.
Asda argued that the store employees could not compare themselves to the distribution centre workers as it was not like work. They said that male and female colleagues within the store were paid the same amounts for like work and that pay differed in the distribution centre for legitimate operational reasons because they are different jobs.
On this preliminary issue the Employment Tribunal ruled in the employees’ favour and decided that the claims could continue on the basis of a comparison between the two types of work.
Therefore, the case can move forward for the Tribunal to consider the reasons for the differences in pay between men and women.
Points to note
This case could be extremely expensive for Asda if the female employees succeed in their claims and it has been reported that the cost could exceed £100 million. Unsurprisingly Asda have indicated that they intend to appeal this preliminary decision.
In addition to the claim by Asda workers it is reported that the Solicitors who are acting on behalf of the Asda employees are also gearing up for a mass claim against Sainsbury’s in similar circumstances, and therefore the decision could have wider consequences for employers.
Action to take
1) Equal pay cases and legislation are fairly complex and therefore if you have any concerns about the payments you make to your staff and potential risk to your business please seek some expert advice without delay;
2) Ensure that you apply any criteria regarding pay, benefits and bonuses in fair manner across your workforce;
3) If you have concerns, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in reading the full judgement you can find a copy here
Alison@realemploymentlawadvice.co.uk or 023 8098 2006 or 01983 897003.