Wednesday, 21 August, 2019

United Kingdom retailer faces $5.6 bln claim over unequal pay for women

REUTERS  Toby Melville  File REUTERS Toby Melville File
Russell Knight | 07 February, 2018, 18:58

Amid a shift to online shopping and warehouse automation there was a 3.9 per cent drop in the number of hours worked in the United Kingdom retail industry in the fourth quarter, according to the British Retail Consortium. However, it is likely to be bogged down in the courts for years.

"If the Tesco employees are equally successful then all major retailers, and indeed businesses more generally, could be exposed to a tidal wave of equal pay litigation", said Crowley Woodford, an employment lawyer at Ashurst.

Law firm Leigh Day - who confirmed they have already been approached by over 1000 employees and ex-employees of the supermarket - argue that employees working in the predominantly-male dominated distribution centres are paid considerably more than the largely female-staffed Tesco stores.

Another two of Britain's "Big Four" retailers, Asda and Sainsbury's, are involved in similar cases.

Unequal pay for men and women is now a hot topic in Britain's boardrooms and corridors of power.

This disparity in pay amounts to men earning, on average, 100 pounds more per week, and up to 5,000 pounds more each year.

British Business Secretary Greg Clark told Sky News he was "surprised" by the scale of the claim against Tesco.

A spokesman responded: "We are unable to comment on a claim that we have not received".

Tesco said they work hard to ensure all staff are paid "fairly and equally".

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Tesco shares were little changed in morning trade, standing at just below 200p at noon.

Leigh Day operates on a no win, no fee basis and takes 25 percent of any compensation obtained by its clients.

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.

It said the underpayment could apply to in excess of 200,000 Tesco employees and with estimated pay shortfalls that could reach $28,000 the final bill for Tesco could be as high as $5.56bn.

The law firm has lodged complaints with the conciliation service Acas on behalf of nearly 100 staff ahead of an employment tribunal process which has already led to similar, continuing claims against Asda and Sainsbury's, involving thousands of staff.

Accordingly, the government recently introduced legislation which requires all United Kingdom businesses to publish their gender pay gapfigures by April 2018.

However, the progress of private sector claims is slow.

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. Asda is due to appeal against the ruling in October.

"The law says women are entitled to equal pay for doing the same job or for work of equal value. Because multiple jobs are being compared this will be a complicated exercise", he said.

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