Gender pay gap | Asda accused of 'exploiting & undervaluing' female staff amid equal pay row

Asda accused of 'exploiting & undervaluing' female staff amid equal pay row

Asda has been accused of ‘exploiting and undervaluing’ female workers by paying them less than some male colleagues.

As reported by the Guardian and Glasgow Live, the GMB union has claimed the supermarket giant is paying thousands of female store staff up to £3 an hour less than their male counterparts working in company warehouses.

Asda store staff - who are mostly women - were given a 3.6% pay rise at the start of this month. This takes their wage to just £9.66 an hour, according to the Sunday Mail.

However, the company’s warehouse workers, who are reportedly mostly male, are still negotiating a significant pay rise, having recently rejected an offered increase of up to 7.5%, which would have raised their pay to at least £11.98 an hour.

GMB insists this disparity will further widen the existing gender pay gap.

Last year thousands of the supermarket’s workers won a major legal battle when The Supreme Court ruled that lower-paid store staff, who are mostly female, can compare themselves with higher-paid warehouse workers, who are mostly male.

GMB Scotland's Robert Deavy said: "Asda retail staff are being exploited and undervalued every hour of every working day. Tens of thousands of working women are being paid less than a tenner an hour for their basic rate of pay - up to £3 an hour less than their male equivalents in distribution.

"Asda need to value their workers properly with a pay increase that tackles soaring inflation and they need to take full responsibility for their chronic sex discrimination by settling their equal pay liabilities, which could easily run into billions of pounds."

One female retail worker, who works at a store in Glasgow, said: "Asda's management has caused the widening gender gap in pay.

"Workers are petrified to speak up in case it puts their jobs at risk.

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"We have staff who can't afford to make ends meet or buy the food they are putting on the shelves. I'm one of many looking for new jobs. Women workers have been short-changed."

A spokesperson for Asda told Glasgow Live: "Retail and distribution are separate and distinct market sectors and the demands of jobs in stores and depots are very different.

"We pay colleagues the market rate in each sector regardless of gender."

Asda ‘lowest paying’ big supermarket

The GMB union has also put pressure on Asda to raise pay for all its shop floor workers, after recent wage rises at rivals Tesco and Sainsbury’s left the company as the UK’s lowest paying supermarket, the Guardian reports.

Asda currently pays workers £9.66 an hour, or £10.83 in London, making it the only big chain to pay less than the independently verified living wage of £11.05 in the capital and £9.90 elsewhere.

Shockingly, a GMB survey of more than 2,000 Asda workers found that more than half of the company’s shop floor workers have had to borrow cash from friends and family the past year; 8% have used a food bank, and 12% have taken out a payday loan.

Shocking data from CIPD recently found that that one in eight UK employees is not earning enough money to support themselves without having to go into debt to pay for basic household essentials including food and bills. A further one in ten (10%) do not think their job protects them from falling into poverty, while one in four (28%) have money problems which affect their job performance, rising to 34% of those earning less than £20,000.

Gender inequality at work

Looking at the data of more than 5,000 UK employers who published their gender pay gap figures for the 2021-22 reporting year so far (by 3pm on 28 March 2022), CIPHR researchers found that over three-quarters (77%) of organisations pay their male employees more than their female employees. Only one in seven (13.4%) pay women more, and only one in 10 organisations (9.6%) reports having no pay gap.

The average median hourly pay gap between what men get paid and what women get paid, upon which these calculations are based, is a shocking 11.9%.

Perhaps even more shockingly, the CIPHR researchers uncovered more evidence of gender inequality in their research. Not only are women routinely paid significantly less than men, but they’re not offered the same access to flexible working.

According to the findings, women are statistically less likely than men to be offered any of the following by their employer: a four-day work week (offered to 13% of women and 23% of men); entitlement to set their own hours and working schedule (offered to 21% of women and 29% of men); entitlement to work remotely from abroad on a temporary or permanent basis (offered to 9% of women and 25% of men); and unlimited paid holidays (offered to 7% of women and 16% of men).

HR’s role in the fight for equal pay

Gillian Jenkins, Solicitor at DAS Law, says that although the Equality Act 2010 broadly sets out that men and women should be paid the same for similar jobs, in practice, the law on equal pay is complex.

“If an employer can evidence that there are genuine material factors as to why employees are paid differently, the employer would be able to defend a claim for inequality in pay", Jenkins previously told HR Grapevine's sister title Grapevine Leaders.

"Such factors can include things such as, experience, qualifications or based on appraisal ratings for performance. If you feel that you are being paid a lower salary due to your gender, it is advisable to seek legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity.”

However, there is a wealth of evidence showing the value to the employer of including women in the workforce. As Rebecca Hourston, a leading women’s leadership expert and MD of Talking Talent, previously told Grapevine Leaders: “Companies in the top quartile for executive team gender diversity are reportedly 21 per cent more likely to experience above-average profitability than others, whilst companies with more diverse management teams have 19 per cent higher revenue.

“After all, driving inclusion and diversity makes a tangible difference to the progressiveness of an organisation’s culture and employee engagement – and it’s great for the bottom line,” she adds.

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