Tesco is facing its first – and the largest ever in UK history – equal pay claim, in which claimant employees are seeking a massive £4bn from the supermarket giant.
Law firm Leigh Day began legal proceedings against Tesco today, arguing that employees working in the male-dominated distribution centres are paid considerably more than the predominantly female-staffed stores.
Distribution centre staff may earn more than £11 per hour, while lawyers claim that the most common grade for store staff is around £8 per hour. This could lead to a disparity of more than £5,000 per year.
“We believe an inherent bias has allowed store workers to be underpaid for many years," said Leigh Day's Paula Lee.
“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 last year had group sales of £49.9bn.”
Leigh Day has already been approached by more than 1,000 Tesco employees and ex-employees. 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.
Asda workers, represented by Leigh Day, already won a similar claim in 2016 where the employment tribunal held that lower-paid female staff in shops could compare themselves to men in distribution centres.
Sainsbury's and Asda are together battling claims from more than 200,000 shop floor workers.