Supermarket staff bring legal action over equal pay

10 July 2015

Employee Benefits has reported that if successful, the members of staff may be entitled to six years’ back pay for the difference in earnings. Three of the employees are working in the Shrewsbury area and one in Fareham, Hampshire. The preliminary hearing will take place today (10 July) at the Birmingham employment tribunal.

Lawyers at Leigh Day, who are taking the legal action on behalf of the workers, are arguing that store-based staff, mainly female workers, are of equal value to higher-paid jobs in male-dominated distribution centres. They also believe that thousands of other female shop floor staff could be eligible to make a pay claim.

In 1989, Sainsbury’s faced a similar case from women working in its Lewisham store in south London.

The first ruling found that even if “one or two minor terms of employment are not common to the two relevant classes of employees” that should not “disable a woman from saying that a given man in a different establishment was ‘in the same employment with her’”.

Michael Newman, solicitor at Leigh Day, said: “This is an important case, given the amount of time equal pay legislation has been in force and the gender pay gap still exists. Sainsbury’s had a judgment against them in the 1980s and they appear not to have learned from that.”

Asda is also currently facing similar legal action over equal pay. A hearing took place in January.

CIPP comment

By the end of March 2016 private and voluntary sector employers with 250 or more employees will be required to publish information on their gender pay gap so we may well see a reduction in cases such as these.

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 brings into force s.78 of the Equality Act 2010 which includes the power for this requirement.

The Act also states that the Secretary of State must consult such persons as they think appropriate on the details of such regulations prior to publication. The CIPP Policy Team will of course be involved in any consultation and will report to members and the profession accordingly.