Retailer Morrisons is to face legal action over equal pay from current and former female store-based employees who claim they are paid less than male staff working at the retailer’s distribution centres.
The equal pay claims regard the disparity in earnings between female employees working across Morrisons’ 498 UK stores compared to the largely male workforce employed at the organisation’s distribution centres.
The store-based employees, which includes roles such as customer assistants, argue that the work they perform is of equal value to work completed by distribution centre staff and that they have, therefore, been systematically underpaid.
Approximately 70% of Morrisons’ customer assistants are female, according to Roscoe Reid, the law firm representing the claimants. In addition, the firm has estimated that Morrisons’ could be forced to pay up to £100 million in compensation, to take into account pay, bonus payments, holidays and sick leave that could be owed to claimants.
Roscoe Reid has also predicted that up to 25,000 full-time and part-time employees, as well as casual workers, who either currently work at the supermarket or who left within the last six years, would be eligible to make an equal pay claim.
Legal proceedings are due to begin within the next few months, initially through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas). The Employment Tribunal (ET) will also appoint an independent expert to assess whether the work undertaken by Morrisons’ respective store and distribution staff is of equal value, taking into consideration factors such as handling money, customer-facing duties and physical activity.
A spokesperson at Morrisons said: “We haven’t received a legal claim on this issue. Our aim is to pay our [employees] fairly and equally for the job they do irrespective of their gender.”
Ellie Pinnells, lead lawyer at Roscoe Reid, added: “We fully expect these claims to succeed and we also expect many more current and former store [employees] to join our current group of claimants. The basis for equal pay claims was established almost 50 years ago with the Equal Pay Act 1970. That gender pay discrimination still exists in such a large and successful [organisation] as Morrisons is surprising to say the least.”