Businesses across Worcestershire have been warned they risk paying out thousands of pounds following a major Employment Tribunal ruling involving supermarket giant Asda.
The alert comes from leading county employment lawyer Sally Morris, who says the Asda case is likely to have long-term and far-reaching implications for Worcestershire’s employers.
Ms Morris, a partner at law firm mfg Solicitors, has spoken out following the tribunal case which has ruled that Asda may have to adjust the pay of 130,000 shop floor staff, with 14 years’ back pay for 7,000 workers, which could cost the retailer an estimated £100 million.
The landmark case centres on a dispute involving female supermarket staff who compared themselves with higher-paid male workers in distribution centres.
Asda had tried to argue that because the stores and distribution centres were in different locations, with different pay arrangements, it could pay the men what it wanted. The tribunal found Asda chose not to ensure there was equal pay between men and women – ruling that jobs in stores and distribution centres were comparable.
Ms Morris said: “This is the biggest-ever equal pay case in the private sector and it’s already having far-reaching implications with 400 Sainsbury’s workers bringing a similar claim.
“Workers here in Worcestershire could easily follow and the case will open the floodgates for women in workplaces up and down the country if they are able to clearly demonstrate they were not given equal pay for equal work.
“There’s no doubt that the decision will give a green light for further equal pay claims.
“It’s a trigger-point so firms must make sure they are prepared and understand exactly what steps they should be taking to protect themselves.”
Following the ruling, Ms Morris and her team are offering businesses in Worcestershire an equal pay audit to ensure their arrangements comply with the law.
She added: “The decision is only days old so we are offering businesses the opportunity for an audit, which is the most effective way of checking that an organisation complies with its equal pay obligations. It is better for firms to get this checked now, before workers past or present do it and leave business owners counting the cost.”
In the coming months Asda, who ‘strongly dispute’ the claims, will be called to a further hearing to determine whether the jobs are of equal value.
Readers can contact Sally Morris through firstname.lastname@example.org
or on 01905 610410.