Asda is facing legal action from thousands of female employees who claim they are paid less than male employees, despite undertaking work of equal value.
The mostly female Asda supermarket store staff claim they are underpaid compared with mostly male colleagues working in the supermarket’s warehouses.
The case, which could become the largest-ever employment claim in the private sector, will test how companies decide what they pay their staff in different parts of their business.
More than 1,000 employment tribunal cases have already been lodged, with more than 19,000 enquiries lodged already from current or former members of staff.
Employees have suggested that the difference in pay could be as high as £4 an hour. If Asda loses the claim it could be forced to pay staff the difference in earnings going back 6 years as well as facing an increased wage bill in the future.
A spokesperson for Asda said: “A firm of no-win, no-fee lawyers are hoping to challenge our award-winning reputation as an equal opportunities employer. We do not discriminate and are very proud of our record in this area which, if it comes to it, we will robustly defend.”
Figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed that in 2013 there was a 19.7% gap between the earnings of men and women, as measured by hourly earnings for all employees.
Historically equal pay claims have been brought against public sector employers. If successful, the case against Asda may open up the floodgates for claims against supermarkets, and the private sector generally.
The cases are likely to be heard in the New Year.