Tesco becomes latest supermarket to face mass equal pay claims

Supermarket giant Tesco is reported to be facing a potential £4 billion worth of equal pay claims brought by female staff who are claiming to be paid significantly less than their male colleagues.

Whereas cashier and customer service roles on the “shop floor” in Tesco stores have traditionally been filled by more women than men, warehouse staff are still far more likely to be male.  

Around 100 female shop employees have taken steps to bring test cases against Tesco, claiming that Tesco’s predominantly male warehouse employees earn up to £11 an hour compared to the shop employees’ £8, but that the work the two groups do is comparable and should be paid comparably.

If those test cases are successful, it is possible that up to 200,000 more shop floor staff would then be able to bring similar claims. It has been estimated that if all of those claims were to succeed then Tesco could be liable for up to £4 billion in back pay dating back, in many cases, to the start of the Claimants’ employment with the supermarket.

 

The key question will be whether the two types of work can be defined as of “equal value” to Tesco, and Tesco will no doubt argue that the roles of warehouse staff involves different and more strenuous tasks to the responsibilities of shop floor staff.

The test for equal pay claims requires each Claimant to point to a comparator of the opposite gender who is being paid more than them for equal work. This means that it may not just be female employees who are able to bring claims; a male employee working on a shop floor would also be able to do so if he could point to a female warehouse worker earning more than him.

The same topic is currently also being litigated by fellow supermarkets Asda and Sainsburys, but the potential number of employees involved in the Tesco claims mean that this is likely to be the UK’s largest ever set of equal pay litigation.

Employment & HRKenneth Rees