The Head of Employment Law at a London firm has said the case against Tesco for equal pay should come as no surprise but merits careful consideration for other businesses.
Donna Martin, a Partner at Mackrell Turner Garrett, has pointed to several cases and articles where the issue of equal pay between male and female workers and those doing jobs of similar value have highlighted the issue before.
Her warning comes after it was revealed that Tesco may be facing a potential equal pay claim worth up to £4 billion, following legal action taken by female members of staff.
So far more than 1,000 staff members are understood to have contacted solicitors to take action against the retailer after it was found that male staff in the store’s depots were receiving an hourly rate as high as £11 an hour, while female staff in-store were only receiving around £8.
Despite doing different jobs, the claimants argue that the work they conducted was of equal value and included handling stock in a similar fashion along with other duties.
While it will be up to a tribunal, involving 100 workers, to decide whether the work is of equal value, the law has been quite clear in this area since 1984, when the Equal Pay Act (the Act) was amended following a landmark case brought by an employee of the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead.
Looking at the latest action, Donna said: “It is surprising that Tesco has been caught so unawares on equal pay.
“They, like all other employers, have had more than three decades to follow legislative changes to the Act, but have failed to protect themselves and are therefore likely to face a significant bill if the claim is successful.”
She said that she had pointed out a similar case in 2016 on her firm’s website where 9,500 women who worked at Asda on the shop floor had won a claim at a tribunal to be paid equally to higher paid men who work at warehouses – a decision that Asda is currently appealing.
“We must not forget that while action in both these cases has been taken by women it is also likely to affect thousands of male employees who find themselves in the same roles,” added Donna.
“If reports are to be believed then some 200,000 employees at Tesco could be eligible to bring a claim. It may be too late for Tesco to remedy this situation, but there are likely to be hundreds of businesses out there who have similar pay practices within their organisation whether they openly know it or not.”
She is recommending that firm’s review their current pay practices immediately to see whether or not they are inadvertently opening themselves up to a claim under the Act.
“Do not hesitate, act now and seek professional assistance if you need it. Claims such as these are not only costly, but they could have a significant impact on your company’s reputation,” concluded Donna.