More than 8,000 workers have signed up to a new equal pay claim being brought against Tesco, which has been formed in addition to the legal challenge already taking place.
According to law firm Harcus Sinclair UK and campaign group Pay Justice, the retailer breached its duty under section 66 of the Equality Act 2010 by paying staff in its distribution centres more than those on the shop floor, despite the roles being of “comparable value”.
Equal pay claims
They stated that shop floor staff – the majority of whom are female – are paid up to £3 less per hour than its predominantly-male warehouse and distribution centre workforce.
They have formed a Tesco Action Group, which is made up of around 8,000 current and former Tesco staff, to take the claim forward.
The claim was formed in addition to a separate legal challenge by Leigh Day, which is representing around 1,000 former and current Tesco staff in a similar equal pay dispute.
“The law says work can be different but still equal because of the demands in terms of effort, skill and decision-making that it makes on the worker,” said Emily Fernando, solicitor at Harcus Sinclair.
“In our view the work of a female cashier, who also moves cages of produce and stacks shelves, is equal to that of a male worker in a distribution centre.
“As a claimant bringing an equal pay claim, you may be challenging a status quo that has existed for a long time; but you are asking no more than that your employer complies with the law. That is what our clients are seeking in the Tesco case.”
The law firm estimated that the average claim for back pay will be around £5,000, depending on hours worked, how long the employee worked at Tesco and the pay rate for the distribution role it is most appropriate to compare their job to.
Pay Justice is also involved in equal pay disputes at several major retailers including Next, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons. It estimates that 584,000 current staff and even more former employees of the four main supermarkets could be entitled to £10bn in back pay.
“As the country’s biggest supermarket, one would have hoped Tesco would lead by example in practising what it preaches on the importance of equality in the workplace. Sadly, that is not the case,” said Alexia Hendrickson of Pay Justice.
“Indeed, the UK’s top four supermarkets are all culpable. We hope to hold them to account and bring justice to all the workers who we believe have been underpaid.”
Current Tesco employees or those who have worked for the retailer in the last six years (five in Scotland) are eligible to join the claim. They must also have been paid an hourly rate.
A Tesco spokesperson said it has received only two claims so far and would be strongly defending them.
“Tesco works hard to make sure all our colleagues are paid fairly and equally for the jobs they do and are recognised for the great job they do every day serving our shoppers. There are only a very small number of claims being made, and there are strong factual and legal arguments to defend against those claims,” said the spokesperson.