Asda is at risk of losing £1.2bn in historic compensation payouts according to the union representing staff, after a leaked email appeared to strengthen their case today.
The email, which was obtained by ITV news, from lawyers Leigh Day compared the knowledge and responsibility of female workers – who traditionally work on shop floors – to male colleagues who largely work in distribution centres.
Leigh Day is currently bringing a claim on behalf of 44,000 Asda store workers for equal pay.
The case is about whether colleagues in Asda stores do work of “equal value” with colleagues in the distribution centres.
According to the outlet, the email showed that shop floor workers scored slightly higher in the comparison test than their warehouse counterparts, scoring 453 points. Those in the distribution centre scored 447.
However, the male based roles are reportedly paid between £1.50 and £3 an hour more.
Asda will have to justify why this is the case at a tribunal hearing next year, if they lose the case they face up to £1.2bn in compensation payout, workers union GMB – which is representing female workers -confirmed to City A.M.
The grocer could also face an increased pay bill of up to £400m each year.
“Asda needs to pay their women workers fairly – it is as simple as that,” Andy Prendergast, GMB national secretary, told City A.M.
“Retail workers, predominantly women, deserve the same treatment as the mostly men working in distribution. Women dominated roles shouldn’t be paid £1.50-£3 per hour less than those of equal value to the business.”
He added: “Asda can either do the right thing and pay up, or keep dragging their heels and increasing their liability.”
“This report is part of a complex legal case and is confidential. It is not a ruling by the Employment Tribunal and is not a decision on the question of equal value,” an Asda spokesperson said.
“At Asda male and female colleagues doing the same jobs in stores are paid the same and this is equally true in our distribution centres. We continue to defend these claims because retail and distribution are very different sectors, with their own distinct skill sets and rates of pay”
Asda’s treatment of its employees has been in the spotlight in recent months..
Earlier this summer, its bosses were called to parliament on two separate occasions regarding alleged fire and rehire tactics.
In May, Asda reportedly threatened some 7,000 workers of being fired and rehired – which Asda characterised as “dismiss and reengage – if they did not accept its 60p pay cut.