Following the announcement of legal action in February 2018, law firm Leigh Day has now lodged 1,000 equal pay claims against supermarket chain Tesco, and reports that it expects that number to rise because it has received thousands more enquiries.
Approximately 75% of the claimants are female.
The legal action, which may emerge as the largest ever equal pay challenge in UK history, has been estimated to have a potential cost of £4bn for the supermarket.
Research by Leigh Day has found that employees in the predominantly male workforce of the Tesco distribution centres may earn more than £11 per hour, while the most common pay grade for the mainly female-staffed stores is approximately £8 per hour. Employees in stores could, therefore, be earning £5,000 less per year than distribution workers.
Leigh Day claims that the underpayments could apply to more than 250,000 Tesco employees, and that estimated pay shortfalls could reach £20,000.
Almost all (99%) of the claims have been filed with the Employment Tribunal (ET), with the rest currently with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) before being taken to the ET.
The firm has created a specialist unit to handle calls from women and men who work in the stores, and who might be eligible to make a claim. The employment team has held meetings in various cities and towns, including Swansea, Liverpool and Cambridge.
Leigh Day is also representing more than 20,000 shop-floor workers in similar claims against Sainsbury’s and Asda.
A Tesco spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on an ongoing legal matter, but we will be defending this claim about equal pay. 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.”
Paula Lee, employment lawyer at Leigh Day, said: “We’ve had an incredible response to the announcement of this legal action. Many proud members of staff have realised that this claim is not anti-Tesco, but it is to ensure that the work done in stores and distribution centres is recognised as being of equal value; not the same work, but work of equal value, and that they should be paid the same as [employees] in distribution.
“Both store staff and distribution staff play an essential role in making billions of pounds for Tesco executives and shareholders, they should both be paid equally for what they contribute to the business.
“The concept of ‘women’s work’ is an outdated approach to employment from the middle of the last century which needs to be corrected.”