Tesco equal pay case could lead to £4bn bill

REUTERS  Toby Melville  File

REUTERS Toby Melville File

Paula Lee, of Leigh Day solicitors, has lodged complaints with the conciliation service Acas, on behalf of almost 100 Tesco staff who say they earn as much as £3 an hour less than male warehouse workers in similar roles.

Shop worker in Sunderland could see big changes as one of the UK's biggest supermarkets faces a court case.

Tesco is facing its first - and the largest ever in United Kingdom history - equal pay claim, in which claimant employees are seeking a massive £4bn from the supermarket giant.

It said it had been approached by over 1,000 employees and former employees of Tesco.

According to the claim, Tesco warehouse staff earn from about £8.50 an hour to more than £11, while store staff earn about £8 an hour in basic pay.

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This disparity could see a full time distribution worker on the same hours earning over 100 pounds a week - or 5,000 pounds a year - more than female store staff.

The supermarket chain has defended itself and said it had taken the necessary steps to ensure all staff were paid "fairly and equally" but Lee insisted the issue had been allowed to linger on for over three decades.

Tesco is the largest retailer in Britain and the largest employer in the private sector with over 310,000 employees.

Crowley Woodford, employment partner at law firm Ashurst, said if the claim succeeds "all major retailers, and businesses more generally, could be exposed to a tidal wave of equal pay litigation".

Tesco said it hadn't received the claims.

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But a spokesman added: "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".

It is reported that claims have been submitted to conciliation body Acas. Of Tesco's lowest paid workers 62 per cent are women, but only 41 per cent of its highest earners are female.

The law firm is also working on claims against supermarket rivals Asda, the British arm of Walmart (WMT.N), and Sainsbury's (SBRY.L), which date back to 2012 and 2015 respectively.

Two workers for Tesco told the they wanted fair treatment, arguing that their jobs in the stores were as demanding as warehouse jobs.

Ministers said millions of people will be able to seek a more stable contract, have holiday and sick pay enforced, receive a list of their rights and be given a payslip. Asda lost at an employment tribunal in 2016 but is preparing to appeal.

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It comes after a review by the chief executive of The Royal Society of Arts Matthew Taylor said a year ago that many Britons working for firms in the gig economy deserved more entitlements.

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