Tesco set to face record £4bn equal pay claim

Ivan Schwartz
February 8, 2018

Tesco, the Britain-based supermarket group, faces a potential £4 billion equal to $5.6 billion bill to bring wages of female employees into line with those of males, according to a law firm that is pursuing the largest claim in Britain for equal pay.

Leigh Day lawyers argue that the average male distribution worker earns just over $19 an hour, while the average female store worker earns just $14 an hour.

"There really should be no argument that workers in stores contribute at least equal value to the vast profits made by Tesco", said Paula Lee, the lead lawyer from Leigh Day.

"In terms of equal worth to the company there really should be no argument that workers in stores, compared to those working in distribution centres, contribute at least equal value to the vast profits made by Tesco which previous year had group sales of £49.9bn".

The law firm said they were approached by over 1000 employees and ex-employees who complained about the wage gap. It thinks more than 200,000 staff could have been underpaid, and with estimated pay shortfalls of £20,000 per head this could leave Tesco with a bill as high as £4bn.

The law firm has already started to submit claims on behalf of clients through ACAS conciliation service, the first state in what will become an Employment Tribunal process.

Tesco is particularly exposed because of its size as well as a recent push to put thousands more staff on its shop floors in a bid to soften its hard-nosed image among United Kingdom consumers.

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It follows similar actions against Asda and Sainsbury's.

The Asda case involves almost 20,000 shopworkers and the most recent ruling backed their right to compare their jobs to those of their mostly male colleagues working in distribution centres.

Tesco said that all their staff could progress equally and were paid fairly, whatever their gender or background.

"The difference in pay is probably due to the nature of the work rather than gender, but the Tesco claim could have big repercussions across other retail businesses", according to Maureen Hinton, director at retail researcher Conlumino.

Tesco, which said it has not yet received any claims, said that it "works hard" to make sure all of its employees are "paid fairly and equally for the jobs they do".

This comes as research has also revealed that mothers continued to be penalised at work, as they look to find part-time roles.

Ministers said millions of people will be able to seek a more stable contract, have holiday and sick pay enforced, receive a list of their rights and be given a payslip.

Other reports by GizPress

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