London-based international lawyers at Mackrell Turner Garrett are calling on businesses across the UK to review their existing pay and employment policies to ensure that they are not left open to claims for equal pay.
Their stark warning comes as former and current employees of the retail giant, Morrisons, reveal that they intend to take legal action against the supermarket chain over claims that some female store staff are not being paid the same as their predominantly male colleagues in the distribution centres.
This follows similar claims from female staff at Tesco and Asda, which have left the industry with a potentially devastating backpay bill, thought to be in the hundreds of millions of pounds.
It is believed that in Morrisons’ case, if staff members legal challenge is successful, thousands of women could receive back pay averaging £15,000.
In the Morrisons’ case it is also understood that alongside claims for hourly pay, many claimants are also seeking payment for other benefits, such as bonus payments, holiday pay and sick leave.
Donna Martin, head of employment and Immigration Law at Mackrell Turner Garrett said, “We now have three significant ongoing cases in the UK relating to equal pay and it is becoming clear that many other industries, outside of retail, could potentially be affected by these ongoing actions.
“With this in mind, employers across the UK should be taking notice and thoroughly reviewing their existing employment policies and payroll to ensure that it complies with the Equal Pay Act and Equality Act, which gives a right to equal pay between women and men for equal work.”
Martin said that the current legislation made it clear that anyone employed is entitled to contractual terms which are as favourable as those of a ‘comparator’ who is employed for equal work of the other gender.
She said, “When making an equal pay claim the assumption is that it is a woman making a comparison against a male working in a similar role.
“However, men can make what is known as a ‘piggyback’ claim using, as his comparator, a woman who has brought a successful equal pay claim.
“In order to bring a claim the former/current employee must be able to compare their pay to someone carrying out equal work, this includes like for like work, where it involves similar tasks which require similar skills, work of equivalent demand or work of equal value, where the roles may be very different but the level of skill and responsibility is similar.”
Those businesses unsure of where their current pay and benefits scheme sits within this legislation should conduct a thorough review at the earliest possible opportunity by seeking professional assistance.