Thousands of staff at retailer Asda have scored a significant victory in their battle for equal pay following an employment tribunal ruling today which could open the floodgates to further claims.

The tribunal in Manchester ruled that lower-paid women who work in Asda stores can compare themselves to higher-paid men who work in Asda’s distribution centres.

London firm Leigh Day says today’s decision will allow more than 7,000 workers to proceed with their claims for equal pay against Asda in the UK’s largest-ever private sector equal pay claim.

The firm is representing former and current employees, mostly female, who feel they have been paid less than others in the organisation despite carrying out roles of equal value.

Leigh Day says the claims brought by the firm against Asda could lead to workers recovering more than £100m going back to 2002.

Lauren Lougheed, an associate in Leigh Day’s employment team, said today’s judgment will have far-reaching implications on other supermarket equal pay claims, ’including those we are bringing on behalf of around 400 Sainsbury’s workers who are in a similar situation’.

Asda strongly disputes the claims. The company stressed that the tribunal’s decision relates to a ’technical preliminary issue’ and does not determine the eventual outcome of the case. 

In a statement, Asda said: ’The tribunal has yet to consider whether the jobs are of equal value in terms of their demands and if some jobs are, only then will the tribunal move on to consider the reasons for the differentials, including the existence of market rates in different industry sectors.

'We believe that the demands of the jobs are very different and are considering our options for appeal.’

Asda says its hourly-paid colleagues doing the same job in the same location are paid the same.

Its statement adds: ’Men and women doing the same job in our retail stores are paid the same. Men and women doing the same job in our distribution centres are paid the same. Pay rates in stores differ from pay rates in distribution centres for legitimate reasons, including the different market rates for different jobs in different sectors.’