Published: Thu, February 08, 2018
Markets | By Josh Butler

Tesco faces record £4bn equal pay legal challenge

Tesco faces record £4bn equal pay legal challenge

The law firm has begun submitting claims through Acas, the conciliation service, as the first step before heading to the employment tribunal.

Paula Lee of Leigh Day solicitors said around 1,000 Tesco workers had contacted the law firm.

Leigh Day said it was also now representing over 20,000 shop-floor workers in equal pay claims against fellow Big 4 retailers Sainsbury's and Asda, who both face similar legal challenges regarding discrepancies in pay between the male-dominated distribution centres and the mainly female-staffed stores.

Leigh Day has announced the launch of what is potentially, at £4 billion, the largest ever equal pay challenge in United Kingdom history, aimed at Tesco.

The claim could cost Britain's biggest supermarket up to £20,000 per worker in back pay over at least six years.

A Tesco spokesman said the firm had not yet received a claim.

'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'.

In fact, some organisations have warned that the pay gap may take over 100 years still, to close, indicating that considerable efforts to ensure wage parity still need to be enforced.

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The most common rate for women is £8 an hour.

Almost 20,000 people are involved in the Asda case, where the latest ruling backed the shop workers' right to compare their jobs with warehouse staff. The company's market share, however, continued to decline, dipping 0.3 percentage points to 27.8 percent.

Tesco said it worked hard to pay employees fairly and equally.

Sheila Wild, equal pay expert at the Equal Pay Portal, said the vast claim Tesco is facing should "come as no surprise" to employers.

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

Prime Minister Theresa May is keen to show she is tackling problems faced particularly by younger Britons, who deprived her ruling Conservatives of a majority in a snap election a year ago by overwhelmingly backing the left-wing Labour Party.

"Tesco's market cap is around £16bn with underlying profits a year ago of £1.2bn, so a £4bn bill would be significant".

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, which is part of legal action over workers' rights against Uber, said Wednesday's government response to the review did not go far enough. "Because multiple jobs are being compared this will be a complicated exercise", he said.

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