Latest Developments in Equal Pay Claims – A Significant Concession by Sainsburys

Latest Developments in Equal Pay Claims – A Significant Concession by Sainsburys

Anyone familiar with equal pay litigation will know that it moves at the speed of an elderly and overweight tortoise. To succeed in equal pay claims, women have to prove three apparently simple things: that they are underpaid against a male comparator; that their job is the same or of at least equal value to their comparator; and that the reason for the pay difference is their gender.

Unfortunately the process of proving each of these things can take several years. As a result of this, only a tiny number of Equal Pay claims have ever reached a final hearing, bringing to mind William Gladstone’s famous dictum that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’.

There was, however, a small glimmer of hope for the 3,700 (mainly) female shop-workers bringing claims against Sainsburys this week as the supermarket giant has conceded that the claimants can compare themselves against higher paid colleagues working in warehouses. The concession is significant as it means the claimants will not have to prove this issue at tribunal and can instead skip straight to the second stage of the process, that of proving their jobs are of at least equal value.

Sainsburys’ concession was celebrated by the Claimants’ solicitor Mike Keenan from Leigh Day Solicitors who stated:

 “This is a huge milestone for Sainsbury’s shop floor workers and truly something to celebrate.

“Now that Sainsbury’s finally agrees shop floor workers compare their roles to workers in distribution centres, we can focus on what’s at the heart of these claims: whether the work is of equal value.

“Leigh Day believes it is and we’re confident that the employment tribunal will agree.”

In making the concession Sainsburys are bowing to the inevitable following the decision of the Supreme Court in March that ASDA shop floor workers could make the same comparison. This now leaves claimants with the more complex task of proving that their jobs are of at least equal value to the warehouse workers to force equal pay action. This is a process which involves an independent expert evaluating job roles and can take several years.

Sainsburys are currently maintaining a bullish stance to the litigation with a representative stating:

 “We will continue to robustly defend our position in this litigation because we stand by our position that roles in stores and depots are fundamentally different.”

Fighting talk although equal pay claims have a habit of settling and Sainsburys will be bucking historic trends if they continue to defend these claims to a final hearing. Watch this space…

This blog was prepared by Mark Alaszewski, employment solicitor at didlaw