Equal pay legal action against retailer Sainsbury’s is set to continue, following a ruling from the Birmingham Employment Tribunal that the case should progress to a hearing.
The ongoing equal pay case concerns store-based Sainsbury’s staff and those who work at the organisation’s distribution centres. The claimants, represented by the law firm Leigh Day, are current and former employees of Sainsbury’s supermarkets, who are predominantly female; they are arguing that the work performed in the stores is of equal value to tasks carried out at the distribution centres, primarily done by male employees.
The case proposes that lower-paid employees working in the stores should be paid the same as higher paid staff based at the distribution centres, as the work performed is of equal value.
To date, Leigh Day has amassed around 2,000 claimants in this case.
The Birmingham Employment Tribunal this week (Monday 10 June 2019) dismissed an appeal from Sainsbury’s to throw out the case because of the way Leigh Day is submitting its claimants’ equal pay claim forms.
The law firm has been issuing groups of claims together on the same claim form submission to the Employment Tribunal; however, Sainsbury’s argued that multiple claims should not have been put on one form and that the tribunal should disregard claims where female store-based employees did different jobs. This relates to Rule 6 of The Employment Tribunals Rules of Procedure 2013, which sets out the steps the tribunal could take if different equal pay claims are put on one claim form.
The tribunal ruled that it will use its discretion to allow around 141 claims to continue, because the submission of claims forms does not impact how the claims are processed, the witness evidence needed or the length of the hearing.
The next stage in the case is to determine which of the higher-paid, warehouse-based job roles will form part of the comparison for equal pay.
Leigh Day currently represents around 35,000 shop floor employees across Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons and the Co-Op in similar equal pay cases.
Linda Wong, solicitor at Leigh Day, said: “We are pleased that the tribunal has used [its] common sense to allow these claims to proceed. Sainsbury’s had tried to get them thrown out on a technicality that made absolutely no difference to the issues in the case, but limited the amount they would have to pay out to hardworking staff. This was yet another attempt by Sainsbury’s to delay the courts from making a decision about whether they have an equal pay problem.
“These claims started in 2015, and Sainsbury’s [has] continued to drag [its] feet and raise petty issues in an attempt to stall the claims. Previous judgments in the Court of Appeal have made it clear [that] equal pay claims such as these issued together should proceed. Sainsbury’s would be better placed working to pay employees fairly and resolve these claims rather than to delay the legal process with unnecessary challenges.”
Sainsbury’s was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.