Background 

The Equality Act 2010 (EQA) implements the principle that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work. Under the EQA, there are three categories of equal work: "like work", "work rated as equivalent" and "work of equal value". 

Facts 

Asda employs around 133,000 hourly paid store workers and around 11,600 hourly paid distribution workers. A group of primarily female employees working in Asda’s supermarket stores are arguing that their work is of equal value to the work carried out by their male colleagues in Asda’s distribution warehouses. In this much publicised case, it was considered whether the group of female employees who worked in Asda’s supermarket stores could compare themselves with employees working in Asda’s distribution warehouses who were predominantly men. 

Decision 

The tribunal concluded that the retail employees could compare themselves to their male counterparts in the distribution warehouses for the purposes of equal pay, on the basis that the retail store and depot workers' terms of employment were broadly similar, they were all paid an hourly rate and had a similar staff handbook. This has open the floodgates for over 7,000 claims to proceed, the total value of which has been estimated at over £100 million. 

Comment 

It should be noted that the Employment Tribunal did not decide that the supermarket store workers should be paid equally to the depot workers, but rather considered the step before that question could be answered; i.e. whether the workers could even compare themselves to the depot workers for the purposes of equal pay legislation. The Employment Tribunal has still not made a determination on whether the jobs are of equal value in terms of their demands, and if they are, consideration will be given to whether there are any material factors (i.e. genuine reasons for the differences), such as different market rates in different industry sectors - so watch this space for that decision! 

Brierley and others v Asda Stores Limited ET/2406372/2008