An employment tribunal has ruled that a study, conducted by Tesco reward managers in 2014, which evaluated 22 store roles against higher paid distribution roles, was not a valid job evaluation study – the latest decision in the long-running battle for equal pay at Britain’s four main supermarkets.
The Open Preliminary Hearing at Watford Employment Tribunal was brought by Harcus Sinclair UK Limited representing Tesco Action Group, on behalf of more than 7,000 current and former employees – the largest group of Tesco workers fighting the multi-million pound claim.
The ruling is the latest development in the equal pay case against Britain’s biggest supermarket. Tesco Action Group, formed in 2018, claims that Tesco Stores Limited breached its duty under section 66 of the Equality Act 2010 to pay them equally in comparison to men employed in comparable roles. The claim centres on store workers (who are predominantly women) who believe they have been paid up to £3 less per hour than warehouse and distribution centre workers (who are predominantly men).
It is estimated that as many as 584,000 current workers and an unknown number of former workers could be entitled to back pay across the UK’s four main supermarkets, resulting in a potential total pay-out of up to £10bn. The biggest claim is against Tesco, which employs approximately 250,000 people in its UK stores.
Tesco Action Group has published a map of UK cities with some of the highest potential claim values, breaking down cities by area post code, detailing the number of Tesco stores within each city, approximate employee numbers and corresponding claim values. It is estimated that current Tesco workers and an unknown number of former workers could be entitled to back pay of up to £10,000 each, resulting in a potential total pay-out exceeding £2.5bn.
The action group is championed by Pay Justice, the organisation dedicated to fighting for equality in the workplace, and leading campaigning law firm Harcus Sinclair UK Limited. The Tesco campaign is part of Harcus Sinclair’s Equal Pay Action initiative.
In the Tesco claim, employees may be eligible if they work or worked in a Tesco store in England, Scotland or Wales for hourly pay during the previous six years (five years if they work or worked in Scotland).
Emily Fernando of Harcus Sinclair said, ‘The outcome delivered by the Employment Tribunal was not one we were hoping for and our clients are considering whether to appeal. Tesco employees past and present should not be deterred by this judgment. The Employment Judge has decided that the claimants can’t rely on a job evaluation exercise carried out by Tesco in 2014 but the equal value aspect of the action continues unaffected, with a date listed to consider our arguments. Our clients are determined to fight for equal pay and we remain as confident as ever that store and warehouse jobs are of equal value.’
Christine Sepahi worked for Tesco for over 25 years and sits on the Tesco Action Group committee. She added, ‘We are obviously disappointed by this latest ruling but remain resolute in our battle for equal pay at Tesco. All we’ve ever wanted is a level playing field and, at a time when Tesco is relying on its store workers more than ever to help it post record profits on the back of Covid-19, we would dearly love to see workers compensated for years of scandalous and unfair remuneration.’
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