The equal pay challenge that could force Tesco to fork out £4 billion in back pay has reached a significant milestone as the number of claimants swelled to 1000.
Legal proceedings against the Big 4 grocer began back in February, when law firm Leigh Day filed claims from 100 shop workers at the employment tribunal.
According to the Guardian, the firm has now filed an additional 900 claims at the employment tribunal on behalf of shop assistants.
Law firm Leigh Day is submitting claims on behalf of their clients through ACAS, the first stage in the Employment Tribunal process which could potentially last several years.
Those who have filed a claim so far – three-quarters of whom are women – allege that they earn up to £3 an hour less than mostly-male Tesco warehouse colleagues in similar roles.
According to the legal proceedings, Tesco warehouse staff earn from about £8.50 an hour, up to more than £11 an hour, while store staff earn about £8 an hour in basic pay.
The disparity means a full-time distribution worker could be earning £5000 a year more than shop floor colleagues.
Leigh Day believes the underpayment of workers could apply to in excess of 200,000 Tesco employees.
This means the legal challenge could become the largest-ever equal pay challenge in UK history, with Tesco facing a potential bill of £4 billion in compensation payments.
Affected workers could be eligible for up to £20,000 each in in back-pay over at least six years.
“Many proud members of staff have realised that this claim is not anti Tesco, but it is to ensure that the work done in stores and distribution centres is recognised as being of equal value; not the same work, but work of equal value,” Leigh Day lawyer Paula Lee told the Guardian.
“And that they should be paid the same as their colleagues in distribution.
“The concept of ‘women’s work’ is an outdated approach to employment from the middle of the last century which needs to be corrected.”
A Tesco spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on an ongoing legal matter, but we will be defending this claim about equal pay.
“Tesco has always been a place for people to get on in their careers, 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.”
It’s not the first time a major British retailer has been faced with an equal pay legal challenge.
Leigh Day is also representing over 20,000 shop-floor workers in equal pay claims against fellow Big 4 retailers Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda, all of which face similar legal challenges regarding pay discrepancies.