Employees consider suing Asda over employment contracts

Posted on Wednesday November 6, 2019

Donna Martin

Several former employees of Asda who have lost their job after failing to sign new work contracts are considering suing the company for unfair dismissal.

Duncan Carson, a baker at an Asda store near Stoke, has announced that he will be mounting a legal challenge against the retailer after he was sacked for refusing to agree to new working condition.

Asda had given its workers until midnight on 2 November 2019 to agree to the new contracts, which made new provisions for unpaid breaks, changes to night shift payments and being called to work at shorter notice, but offered a higher wage.

So far more than 120,000 employees have signed new contracts, but the supermarket has indicated that a further 300 are yet to do so.

Speaking about his decision to challenge the new contract, Duncan Carson said: “I think someone should stand up to them. What is the point in having a contract if they can unilaterally change it?”

Having worked at Asda for 13 years, he said the new contract was unacceptable and made future working hours too uncertain.

He currently works from 6am until noon as a baker, but he could be asked to work any hours from 5am until midnight under the new terms.

In response to the challenge by some employees, Asda has extended its deadline to accept the new terms by a week, meaning workers who return can do so on the new terms.

However, those who continue to refuse to sign will remain terminated. An Asda spokesperson said: “We have been clear that we do not want anyone to leave us as a result of this necessary change and so we have written to the fewer than 300 colleagues who have not signed the contract to offer a little more time to sign up and continue to work with us, should they wish.”

Neil Derrick, GMB regional officer for Yorkshire and North Derbyshire the area in which Mr Carson is employed, said: “We are working with every individual member with a view to lodging a claim.

It is understood that some employees may be launching claims based on unfair dismissal, sex discrimination or potentially disability discrimination.

It is thought that the change to contracts could adversely affect women who are on part-time contracts, who utilise the current set arrangement to look after family members.

Employees that continue to not sign the new contract could mount challengers based on unfair dismissal or indirect discrimination.

Staff with two years of qualifying employment could use unfair dismissal, although a tribunal may be satisfied that there was a good business reason for the change and sufficient consultation to not merit a claim.

It will ultimately be up to the employer to justify the change and provide evidence that the proper procedures were followed.

To find out more details regarding this situation and Asda’s position, please read our previous article here.

If you would like advice on this or any other employment matters, please contact our Head of Employment, Donna Martin by calling +44 (0) 20 7240 0521 or emailing donna.martin@mackrell.com.