Next has become the first fashion retailer to face a major equal pay claim as over 300 workers registered to bring forward a case.
Thousands of female staff at Next could be rewarded back-payments totaling £30 million, following revelations that the retailer pays mainly female shop-floor staff an average of £2 an hour less than mainly male warehouse workers.
Hundreds of workers have signed up to participate in the claim, which was filed at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).
It is expected that 5000 to 6000 workers will sign up to group claim in the coming weeks.
The claim comes ahead of a government deadline for companies with a pay bill of over £3 million to publish their gender pay gap reports.
Elizabeth George, the lawyer representing Next’s claimants, said this was “another classic example of historical discrimination that has never been corrected”.
“Shop floor work was always perceived as women’s work and so thought to be worth less than work in the warehouses which was traditionally perceived as men’s work,” she said.
“It is open to Next to approach these claims differently from say, Asda. They can spend months (possibly years) fighting the claims or they can take a radically different and progressive approach and work with us to put this problem right.”
She added that the tasks carried out by shop floor staff required comparable mental and physical agility to warehouse workers, entitling them to equal pay under employment law.
A Next spokesperson said they were unaware of the claim but that “the difference between working in a warehouse and a store at Next is, however, more significant than for any of the retailers now involved in litigation”.
“Next values all its employees, regardless of their gender, role and place of work within the business,” the spokesperson added.
“Next is also confident that all its employees are paid legally, fairly and appropriately for the jobs they perform.”
This follows similar cases at major grocers like Tesco and Morrisons, with the former facing a potential £4 billion back-pay bill in what could be the largest equal pay claim in UK history.