Law firm Leigh Day have launched a £4bn equal pay claims against Tesco in what it says could be the largest ever equal pay challenge in UK history.
Lawyers argue that employees working in the predominantly male-dominated distribution centres are paid considerably more than the largely female-staffed Tesco stores and may earn in excess of £11 an hour whilst the most common grade for store staff sees them receive around £8 per hour.
It says this disparity could see a full-time distribution worker on the same hours earning over £100 a week, or £5,000 a year more than female-based store staff.
According to Leigh Day, the underpayment of workers could apply to in excess of 200,000 Tesco employees, with estimated pay shortfalls that could reach £20,000, meaning the final bill for Tesco could be as high as £4bn.
Lawyers have confirmed they have already been approached by over 1,000 employees and ex-employees of the supermarket. In June 2016 the Employment Tribunal found that lower paid female Asda workers, also represented by Leigh Day, could compare themselves to higher paid men who work in Asda’s distribution centres.
Alongside the claim against Tesco, Leigh Day are currently representing over 20,000 shop-floor workers in equal pay claims against fellow supermarket giants Sainsbury’s and Asda in similar cases.
Paula Lee, the lawyer from the Employment Team at Leigh Day who is representing the Tesco women, said: “We believe an inherent bias has allowed store workers to be underpaid for 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 distribution centres, contribute at least equal value to the vast profits made by Tesco which last year had group sales of £49.9bn.”