The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of 44,000 Asda supermarket workers in the latest stage of their equal pay challenge.
Asda store workers are arguing they are being paid less because most store workers are women, while most distribution depot staff are men.
The court upheld previous rulings that lower paid shop workers are allowed to compare themselves and their work to that of warehouse workers.
The decision does not give the workers equal pay, but it does allow legal grounds to take further action.
The next stage of the legal challenge is to prove that the work of both shopfloor and warehouse workers is of equal value in terms of skills and training, and that gender is the key reason for the difference in pay.
An Asda spokesperson said there was a long way to go before the issues were finally settled: “This ruling relates to one stage of a complex case that is likely to take several years to reach a conclusion. We are defending these claims because the pay in our stores and distribution centres is the same for colleagues doing the same jobs regardless of their gender. Retail and distribution are very different sectors with their own distinct skill sets and pay rates.”
The case is of huge significance to the retail sector, where a number of other large retailers are also facing equal pay challenges and where similar staffing models and pay structures are used.
It is estimated that if all of the retailers lose their equal pay claims, they could be liable for approximately £8 billion in back-pay and compensation.