Tesco’s Startling Pay Gap

Following on from the first releases of the UK’s gender pay gap figures by companies with over 250 staff, Tesco could now be facing a startling back-pay bill of up to £4 billion.

It was revealed that the shop floor staff at the retail giant, most of whom are women, are paid up to £3 an hour less than staff in their warehouses – most of whom are men. Now legal action has been launched on behalf of almost 100 shop workers by the law firm Leigh Day.

Staff in Tesco warehouses earn a minimum of £8.50 an hour, up to £11 an hour, whilst in-store staff earn a basic rate of £8 an hour. On top of this, most shop workers are paid time and a half on Sundays, whereas those in the warehouses get double pay. This translates to a potential difference in salaries of £5,000 per year in favour of warehouse workers.

Seeing as this could affect up to 200,000 shop floor staff, and cost up to £20,000 per staff member in back pay for the past 6 years, Tesco could be faced with a staggeringly large wage bill to foot.  

Right now the claims are being sent through the The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) on the road to a full employment tribunal. Though it’s not just Tesco that has found itself in hot water – Asda and Sainsbury’s are currently working through employment tribunals of their own.

In Asda’s case, over 10,000 claimants – both male and female – are seeking to compare their jobs in Asda retail stores with the jobs of colleagues who work in distribution centres. Their original argument that: “the claimants could not draw a comparison between themselves and workers in distribution centres because the two groups of workers’ pay rates are set using different methods”, was dismissed by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), which sets a clear precedent for Tesco’s own legal battle.

Paula Lee, a Leigh Day lawyer representing the Tesco workers has said:

“We believe an inherent bias has allowed store workers to be underpaid over many years.

There might be lifting and carrying in the distribution centre but there is also lifting and carrying in shops as well as dealing with customers asking questions and handling money.”

Denying that it had received any details of a claim, a spokesperson for Tesco responded for comment saying:

“We are unable to comment on a claim that we have not received. 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.”

This also follows a successful campaign against Birmingham City Council by cleaners and dinner ladies, who won the right to be paid on the same scale as street cleaners and bin men, which just goes to further exemplify the dramatic undervaluing of those working in “female” job roles.

Hopefully, with these cases drawing media attention, and with the potential wage bill Tesco may face, this should be enough to affect change where it is desperately needed.

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