UK Supreme Court rejects Asda management's plea in equal pay dispute
The Top Court's permission to compare terms and conditions of employment with those of other departments of the same company might open the floodgates for equal pay demands.
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has removed a major bottleneck in the implementation of gender equality at work by dismissing an appeal against women workers who had been seeking equal pay compared to their male colleagues.
The UK SC allowed shop floor workers of the major supermarket retailer Asda to compare their roles to roles to their colleagues in distribution centres to claim equal pay.
Although the UK adopted Equality Act in 2010 besides having an Equal Pay Act 1970, its implementation on the ground is far from satisfactory. According to the law, the threshold requirement for equal pay claims is that the claimants must compare themselves to a valid comparator who is a real person employed by the same, or an associated employer.
The predominantly women shop floor workers of Asda have been seeking compensation for receiving less pay than their colleagues employed in distribution depots, who are predominantly men, for doing work of equal value at lesser salaries.
The case has meandered through several judicial layers including the Employment Tribunal which heard it initially. The ruling went against Asda. The supermarket management was, however, not willing to give in as they appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal and then the Court of Appeal where their appeals were dismissed. This led to the Astra management filing an appeal before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court dismissed also dismissed their appeal. The UK's Top Court has ruled that the workers can use terms and conditions of employment enjoyed by the distribution employees as a valid comparison.
The Court, however, left the main demand of the shop floor workers hanging in balance as it clarified that the dismissal of Asda management's appeal did not necessarily mean that the workers' claims for equal pay were successful.
Simply put, the predominantly women workers of the shop floor may have to wage another round of the legal battle to get what they are demanding, though they would now be armed with the judiciary's permission to compare terms and conditions of their employment with those of the distribution employees.