Retail giant Next has conceded that its store workers can compare their roles to that of their colleagues in distribution centres and warehouses in terms of pay.
Represented by law firm Leigh Day, currently more than 400 employees have brought equal pay claims against the employer, arguing that their work is as demanding as distribution centre and warehouse roles.
According to the firm, comparability is the first stage in a three-step process for equal pay claims and the equal value part is already underway. Next will now have to show evidence that the roles are not of equal value, or if they are, that there is a reason other than gender as to why the roles are not paid equally.
The business employs 25,000 store staff across 500 stores in the UK and Ireland, with 86% of them being women that earn on average between £2 and £6 less per hour than distribution centre workers. If all eligible staff joined the claim, the potential cost to the organisation could be £100 million.
Last month, thousands of Tesco shop floor workers won a legal argument regarding equal pay when the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the single source test applies to businesses in the UK. This means an employee can compare their role with somebody working in a different establishment if a single source has the power to correct the difference in pay.
Elizabeth George, a barrister in the employment team at Leigh Day leading the case, commented that this is “very welcome” news for all the members of staff involved in the claim.
“They can now move forward, and the employment tribunal can focus on the question that is the crux of these claims: is store work of equal value to the work in the warehouses? I believe the answer should and will be an emphatic yes, but only time will tell,” she said.
Next has been contacted for comment.