7000 Equal Pay Claims against Asda not to be stayed
The Claimants, who are overwhelmingly women in retail stores, alleged that the work they do is of equal value to their comparators, mainly men who work at distribution depots, and yet they are being paid substantially less.
Asda applied to stop the claims proceeding in the employment tribunal indefinitely which would force the Claimants to take their claims to the High Court. The employment tribunal concluded that it had no such power and, even if it did, that it would not be appropriate to exercise it here.
Asda’s appeal was unsuccessful at the EAT and now also at the Court of Appeal. Asda argued at the Court of Appeal that this litigation is exceptional in that it was, according to them, the most important, complex and financially significant equal pay claim in the private sector which would not only affect Asda but the retail trade as a whole. In addition, there were very complex points of law to consider.
The Court of Appeal held that staying the proceedings would be prejudicial to the employees. It would involve additional court fees, problems with limitation periods and the possibility that they would have to pay costs if they lost. This would not be the case in the employment tribunal. Furthermore, a power had to be identified which could properly be exercised to achieve the result sought after.
In this case there was no such power that would allow the tribunal to relinquish jurisdiction in favour of the High Court.