Britain's Tesco faces record $5.6 billion equal pay claim

Law firm launches £4bn equal pay claim against Tesco

Nearly 100 Tesco employees have launched a group claim asserting that female shopfloor workers earn up to £3 an hour less than male warehouse staff, which - if successful - could lead to up to 200,000 of Tesco's employees receiving back pay totalling £20,000 per person, according to law firm Leigh Day, their representative.

The Asda case involves almost 20,000 shopworkers and the most recent ruling backed their right to compare their jobs to those of their mostly male colleagues working in distribution centres.

The Tesco case follows similar claims by Leigh Day against two other United Kingdom supermarket operators - Walmart's Asda and Sainsbury.

Tesco said it hadn't received the claims.

Lawyers claim that the company's hourly-paid female store staff earn up to £3 per hour less than their male colleagues, although the value of their work is comparable.

The grocer previously said that men on average were paid 14 per cent more than women in the year through April 2016.

The case, also brought through Leigh Day, focused on around £100m in back payments stretching back to 2002.

Accordingly, the government recently introduced legislation which requires all United Kingdom businesses to publish their gender pay gapfigures by April 2018.

Tesco has played down the lawsuit, saying it works hard to ensure all staff are paid "equally and fairly".

An Usdaw spokesperson said: "In recent months, Usdaw has been discussing this issue with a number of employers, including Tesco, in preparation for the introduction of mandatory gender pay gap reporting later this year".

If the claim is successful it could have huge implications for British industry.

He said the Tesco employees who launched the claim were attempting to "capitalise" on the success of the Asda ruling.

Many in the gig economy, where people tend to work for multiple firms without fixed contracts, operate on a self-employed basis, entitling them to only basic protections such as health and safety.

The law firm believes that up to 200,000 workers could be affected, the majority of them women, and could receive compensation of up to £20,000 each.

Asda is taking the case to the court of appeal in October.

"Tesco shares fell about 1% in early trading as investors reacted to the news, although it's possible this could go further once we get a clearer picture of the risks involved". The legal process is expected to be lengthy and could last several years.

"What we needed to see was a serious extension of rights to workers and a serious proposal on government enforcement of employment law, not just a consultation on the topic".

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