ASDA equal pay lawyer welcomes government proposal for employers to reveal gender pay gap but says most women unable to take legal action if unfairly treated

The lawyer taking legal action against ASDA and Sainsbury’s over equal pay has welcomed the proposal from the Government that all firms with more than 250 employees should reveal the difference between the average pay of men and women.

Mr Cameron pledged to aim to close the gap within a generation.

However, Chris Benson from law firm Leigh Day warned that this was unrealistic as the vast majority of low paid women currently find it almost impossible to enforce their right to equal pay.

Mr Benson, head of employment at law firm Leigh Day said: “The introduction of tribunal fees by the coalition government two years ago means that many of those women affected by unequal pay cannot afford to bring a claim.”

In July 2013 the coalition government brought in new fees of up to £1200, which people wanting to make a claim against their employer had to pay.

Leigh Day are currently representing thousands of women in claims against ASDA and Sainsbury's over equal pay on a ‘no win no fee’ basis, which if successful will see the women secure the same pay as their male colleagues going forward, and awarded 6 years back pay (5 in Scotland).

Mr. Benson explained: “If the Government is really committed to closing the gender pay gap it needs to review the ability of those unlawfully underpaid to secure equal pay once aware they’ve been underpaid. To do this action needs to be taken to scrap tribunal fees now.

“If this government is really committed to reducing the Gender Pay gap then it should also make employers who are found, by an employment tribunal, to have unlawfully underpaid their staff, then they should pay their employee’s legal costs, if the employer did not resolve the situation via ACAS before proceedings began.

“In our cases against Sainsbury and ASDA no effort was made to settle the claims via ACAS before proceedings were issued.

“The view seemed to be that Equal Pay was too difficult or too expensive to sort out. Our clients therefore had no option but to begin proceedings in the Employment Tribunal.

“Without this the suggestion that the problem of equal pay can be solved 'within a generation' is not realistic”.

The next hearing in the tribunal against Sainsbury’s will take place in November.