Tesco faces record £4bn equal pay legal challenge

Jon Howard
February 9, 2018

Tesco is facing its first - and the largest ever in United Kingdom history - equal pay claim, in which claimant employees are seeking a massive £4bn from the supermarket giant.

The disparity could see a full-time distribution worker on the same hours earning over £100 a week, or £5,000 a year, more than store staff, Leigh Day said.

The company is taking action against the supermarket giant on behalf of the staff, who claim male warehouse workers were paid substantially more than them.

The law firm said Tesco distribution centre staff may earn in excess of 11 pounds an hour, while the most common grade for store staff saw them receive around 8 pounds per hour.

The lawyers said the case could eventually involve 200,000 women, making it the largest equal pay challenge in the UK.

The report must detail mean and median gender pay gaps, the proportion of men and women receiving a bonus, and the proportion of men and women in each quartile of the company's pay structure.

The Tesco case follows similar claims by Leigh Day against two other United Kingdom supermarket operators - Walmart's Asda and Sainsbury.

"We believe an inherent bias has allowed store workers to be underpaid over many years", Paula Lee, a Leigh Day lawyer, told the newspaper.

Initial claims have been lodged with the conciliation service, ACAS - the first stage in what is likely to be a lengthy legal process through the employment tribunal system which could last several years.

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The law firm said it had been approached by more than 1,000 employees and ex-employees of the supermarket.

When asked, a spokesperson for Tesco said the company had not received any claim yet.

In 2012, Birmingham city council agreed to pay about a billion pounds to settle the claims of tens of thousands of women workers.

Up to 200,000 shopfloor staff could be affected by the claim, which could cost Tesco up to £20,000 per worker in back pay over at least six years.

Another two of Britain's "Big Four" retailers, Asda and Sainsbury's, are involved in similar cases. A Tesco spokesman said the company "works hard to make sure all our colleagues are paid fairly and equally for the jobs they do".

Prime Minister Theresa May is keen to show she is tackling problems faced particularly by younger Britons, who deprived her ruling Conservatives of a majority in a snap election past year by overwhelmingly backing the left-wing Labour Party.

Crowley Woodford, employment partner at law firm Ashurst, said if the claim succeeds "all major retailers, and businesses more generally, could be exposed to a tidal wave of equal pay litigation".

"Obviously the jobs are slightly different but to put it bluntly they are of equal value".

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