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09 February 2018

£4 billion group legal challenge for equal pay involving 200,000 Tesco workers

Nicholas Le Riche comments on the Tesco equal pay claim. This article was first published in The Times’ Brief.

£4 billion Tesco equal pay claim will be ‘difficult to win’

A £4 billion group legal challenge for equal pay involving as many as 200,000 Tesco workers would be unlikely to succeed, employment lawyers predicted yesterday.

Lawyers for a group of female workers at Tesco distribution centres said their clients were paid considerably less than their male counterparts.

The London law firm bringing the claim, Leigh Day, argued that if successful it would be the largest in UK history and could result in the supermarket chain having to pay £4 billion in compensation.

The firm added that it had started submitting claims on behalf of clients through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, which is the first stage in the employment tribunal process.

However, other employment specialists warned that the case was by no means destined to go against the retailer. ‘Equal pay claims of this nature are notoriously difficult to prove and rarely succeed because the workers are not in directly comparable jobs,’ James Williams, a partner at the London office of the law firm Hill Dickinson, said.

‘To win their claims for equal pay the female Tesco store workers will need to prove that they should receive the higher rate of pay because their work is of equal value to that of the male distribution workers. They must also prove that there is a single source of the pay inequality.’

That latter point is due to be considered in the Court of Appeal this year in similar litigation involving Asda.

‘This means that there is a long, difficult road ahead for these workers before they are likely to see any compensation,’ Williams said.

Nicholas Le Riche, a partner at the London law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, agreed. ‘Proving the shopworkers’ case will not be straightforward, and there will need to be a detailed analysis of whether staff working in Tesco’s distribution centres are truly comparable,’ he said.

Employment specialists believe it could be several years before the Tesco claim is decided.

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