LONDON (Bywire News) - The European Court of Justice has ruled that Tesco breached both EU and UK law by paying their shop floor staff less than those who work in distribution centres.
Employees who work on the shop floor, who are mostly female, accused Tesco of paying them up to £3 an hour less than employees who work in distribution centres, who are mainly male, for work that has now been ruled of equal value.
The landmark decision could also lead to as many as 25,000 current and former Tesco staff receiving a share of £2.5bn in compensation for 7 years of underpay.
A similar Supreme Court case in March, which successfully argued on behalf of 44,000 Asda employees, set a legal precedent that retail shop floor workers should be paid the same as those who work in the supermarket’s depots.
Kiran Dauka, a partner in the employment team from legal firm Leigh Day who represented the Tesco employers, said after the ruling:
"This judgement reinforces the Supreme Court's ruling that the roles of shop floor workers can be compared to those of their colleagues in distribution centres for the purposes of equal pay.”
"It's time for supermarkets to accept that the roles of shop floor workers and distribution centre workers are comparable."
According to Duarka, due to the way that Boris Johnson negotiated Britain’s exit from the EU, today’s EU ruling will now compel UK governments to follow the legal precedent in any future equal pay case:
"There are a number of British laws relating to equality which were made when the UK was part of the EU [...] British Parliament has chosen to retain those laws, including ones relating to equal pay, so they still form part of British law."
However, following the ruling, Tesco issued a combative statement reiterating their continued belief that the work that shop floor staff carry out is not of equal value to that of warehouse workers, stating:
“These roles require different skills and demands which lead to variations in pay – but this has absolutely nothing to do with gender. We continue to strongly defend these claims.
“We reward our colleagues fairly for the jobs they do and work hard to ensure that the pay and benefits we offer are fair, competitive and sustainable.
“These claims are extremely complex and will take many years to reach a conclusion”.
Leigh Day is also pursuing similar equal pay cases against Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons and Co-Op.
(Writing by Jess Miller, editing by Tom D. Rogers.)