Tesco is facing a demand for up to £4bn in back pay from thousands of mainly female shopworkers in what could become the UK’s largest ever equal pay claim.
A law firm has launched legal action on behalf of nearly 100 shop assistants who say they earn as much as £3 an hour less than male warehouse workers in similar roles. Up to 200,000 shopfloor staff could be affected by the claim, which could cost Tesco up to £20,000 per worker in back pay over at least six years.
Tesco warehouse staff earn from about £8.50 an hour up to more than £11 an hour while store staff earn about £8 an hour in basic pay, according to the claim. The disparity could mean a full-time distribution worker earning over £5,000 a year more than store-based staff.
The legal firm behind the action, Leigh Day, has begun submitting claims through Acas, the conciliation service, as the first step before heading to the employment tribunal.
The case follows similar actions against Asda and Sainsbury’s which are working their way through the employment tribunal process. Nearly 20,000 people are involved in the Asda case, where the latest ruling backed the shopworkers’ right to compare their jobs to employees – mainly men – working in distribution centres. Asda is due to appeal against that ruling at the court of appeal in October. About 1,000 workers are involved in the Sainsbury’s action.
Unequal pay has also become a big battleground in the public sector, with female cleaners and dinner ladies taking legal action over claims that they were paid less than binmen or male street cleaners. Birmingham city council agreed to pay more than £1bn to settle the claims of tens of thousands of women which stretch back over many years.