Sunday, February 25

Tesco is facing an equal pay claim which could add to more than £4 billion

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A legal challenge is demanding that female store staff should receive the same pay as the men who work in the company’s warehouses. If successful, thousands of women could receive back pay totalling £20,000.

Leigh Day solicitors are likely to take the test cases for up to 1,000 women.

The most common rate for women is £8 an hour but for men, it can be as high as £11. This means that a full-time distribution worker could earn over £100 a week or £5,000 a year more than female store staff. Female store staff will argue that their jobs are just as demanding as warehouse jobs.

Pam Jenkins who has worked for Tesco for 26 years said, ‘we deal with customers, they [the men]don’t have to. We load, we take the stock and we load the stock, they take it off the lorry and we load it onto the shelves.’ ‘Women have been fighting for equal rights and their voice to be heard for 100 years, we are not just doing it for us, there are many people out there.’ ‘We are just trying to put things right and it’s a shame we are still having to fight in this day and age.

Tesco is Britain’s biggest retailer and its largest private sector employer with over 310,000 staff. If this claim is successful, it is thought that over 200,000 supermarket workers, mostly women, will be affected.

Paula Lee from Leigh Day solicitors has said that the problem has been ‘hiding in plain sight’ for years. She added, ‘We believe an inherent bias has allowed store workers to be underpaid over many years.’ ‘In terms of equal worth to the company there really should be no argument that workers in stores, compared to those working in the depots, contribute at least equal value to the vast profits made by Tesco.’ ‘The law has been there since 1984 – you can compare with a different job.’ ‘That’s 34 years to put your house in order; that’s 34 years of having the advantage of paying unequally, 34 years of you making pay decisions and making financial decisions and 34 years hiding what is in open sight.’

This is, however, likely to be a long process and it could last several years. Currently, the case is in its initial stages; claims have been lodged with the conciliation service, ACAS.

Tesco has said that all staff are paid ‘fairly and equally’ but that it cannot comment on the case yet. It went on to say, ‘Tesco has always been a place for people to get on in their career, regardless of their gender, background or education, and we work hard to make sure all our colleagues are paid fairly and equally for the jobs they do.’

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Hannah is a third-year law student at the University of York and has a particular interest in public law and international criminal law. She joined Legal Loop in August 2017.

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