Tesco is facing a multi-million-pound equal pay claim from over 8000 shop-floor workers who claim they are paid considerably less than warehouse-based colleagues.
The Tesco Action Group have accused the supermarket of paying predominantly female shop-floor workers up to £3 less an hour than predominantly male workers in warehouses and distribution centres.
Tesco have denied the claims, however there have been several similar cases recently brought against Morrisons, Asda and Sainsbury’s.
Law firm Leigh Day are lodging a claim on behalf of eight Morrisons shop workers, but they have stated that around 80,000 employees could be eligible to claim back pay totalling more than a billion pounds.
How can employers prevent this?
It seems unlikely that large employers like these supermarkets would purposefully pay men and women unequally, as it would be in direct violation of the Equality Act 2010.
The case here isn’t two people being paid differently for doing the same job. The supermarket cases are based on whether the jobs have “equal value”.
Tesco and Morrisons will be aiming to defend their position by arguing that working in a warehouse is more demanding due to the physicality of the work. The workers’ lawyers will argue that both roles are equally challenging, but in different ways.
Working on the shop-floor involves handling money, dealing with customers, and a degree of physical work too when unloading and stacking shelves.
Employers should ensure that they can prove that any pay discrepancy is based on the nature of the job rather than the gender of the employees filling those roles.
A job evaluation scheme can provide a basis for comparing the value of different jobs in order to achieve equal pay.
The value of a job can be evaluated by appraising the individual demands of a job, known as factors. An employment tribunal investigating whether a job is underpaid compared to another will take these factors into consideration by assigning a score to each factor. Examples include:
Responsibility for people
Avoiding gender bias
Any job evaluation must be gender neutral. Without this, job evaluation will not be a defence against unequal pay.