A job evaluation study by Tesco that showed jobs in stores and distribution centres were equal could lead to the supermarket chain’s store workers being paid compensation years earlier than expected, a law firm has alleged.
If an employment tribunal decides that the study carried out by the supermarket is reliable some 3,500 store workers could receive up to £10,000 for up to six years’ back pay.
This is a highly unusual scenario where Tesco is now backpedalling and criticising its own study” – Lara Kennedy, Leigh Day
But lawyers for the store workers say that Tesco has “backpedalled” and is critical of its own study.
A tribunal hearing started today (5 October) to determine whether the study, carried out in 2014 by Tesco reward managers, meets the legal test.
The claimants, represented by law firm Leigh Day, have suggested this study found that 22 hourly-paid store roles were equivalent to higher paid distribution centre roles. They allege that, after developing the study, Tesco hid its existence from staff.
Tesco workers launched the case in 2018 and focuses on employees working in male-dominated distribution centres being paid considerably more than the largely female-staffed Tesco stores.
Equal pay cases
Warehouse employees sometimes earn in excess of £11 an hour while the most common wage for store staff is £8 per hour – a disparity could see a full-time distribution worker earning £5,000 more per year than store staff on the same hours.
If successful, employees involved in the claim, and whose job sits within one of the 22 roles, are a step closer to a pay rise and compensation.
Lara Kennedy, a solicitor in the employment team at Leigh Day, said: “This is a highly unusual scenario where Tesco is now backpedalling and criticising its own study.
“Having looked at the legislation and carefully analysed the case law, we believe the 2014 study, designed, developed and scored by Tesco’s own reward managers, to be a job evaluation study that can be relied upon by its store workers.
“We argue that the only reason shop floor workers have not been paid equally is because, despite their own study telling them otherwise, Tesco see the work done in stores, typically by women, as lesser in value than that done in distribution centres by their mostly male colleagues.”
A Tesco spokesperson said the company would contest the claims: “We work hard to ensure that we reward our colleagues fairly for the jobs they do. The pay in our stores and in our distribution centres is the same for colleagues doing the same jobs regardless of gender.
“There are fundamental differences between the jobs in our stores vs those in distribution centres. These differences, in skills and demands, as well as the different markets in which they operate, do lead to variations in rates of pay between stores and distribution centres – but these are not in any way related to gender. We will strongly defend these claims.”