A law firm has announced that it has now lodged the first 1,000 equal pay claims against Tesco on behalf of female members of staff in potentially the largest ever equal pay challenge in UK history.
Leigh Day says the legal action is estimated as potentially costing the supermarket giant £4bn in compensation to workers.
It says it has received thousands more enquiries and expects the number of claims from Tesco staff, over the disparity in pay between store staff and those in the predominantly male-dominated distribution centres, to continue to rise. Several other supermarket chains have seen similar legal action.
Following the announcement in February 2018 that the firm was taking this legal action, lawyers in the employment team at Leigh Day have hosted meetings across the country and created a specialist unit to handle calls from women and men who work in the stores and are paid considerably less than their colleagues in the distribution centres.
Paula Lee, one of the lawyers handling the Tesco claims at Leigh Day, said: “We’ve had an incredible response to the announcement of this legal action. Many proud members of staff have realised that this claim is not anti-Tesco, but it is to ensure that the work done in stores and distribution centres is recognised as being of equal value; not the same work, but work of equal value and that they should be paid the same as their colleagues in distribution.
“Both store staff and distribution staff play an essential role in making billions of pounds for Tesco executives and shareholders, they should both be paid equally for what they contribute to the business.
“The concept of ‘women’s work’ is an outdated approach to employment from the middle of the last century which needs to be corrected.”
Research by Leigh Day has found that people working in the predominantly male-dominated Tesco distribution centres may earn in excess of £11.00 an hour whilst the most common grade for store staff sees them receive around £8.00 per hour.
This means a full-time distribution worker completing the same number of hours earns over £100 a week or £5,000 a year more than female-based store staff.
The underpayment of workers could apply to over 250,000 Tesco employees, with estimated pay shortfalls that could reach £20,000.
Alongside the claim against Tesco, Leigh Day is currently representing over 20,000 shop-floor workers in equal pay claims against fellow supermarket giants Sainsbury’s and Asda, which both face similar claims of discrepancies in pay between the male-dominated distribution centres and the mainly female-staffed stores.
Lee added: “According to the latest Annual Report from Tesco the remuneration package for the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Financial Officer totalled £6.3m, yet figures show that Tesco employees are having to claim millions of pounds in working tax credits. Paying people fairly benefits the whole of society.”
Meanwhile, the BBC’s latest pay figures reveal that just two of its top 20 highest-paid stars are women. The BBC said the number of women making its list of stars paid £150,000 or more increased from 14 to 22 in the year to the end of March, accounting for 34% of the 64-strong list, and would rise to 28 of 69 (41%) by the end of March next year.