Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has conceded that its shop floor employees can compare their roles to that of their colleagues in distribution centres for the purposes of equal pay.
Represented by law firm Leigh Day, more than 3,700 workers brought equal value claims against the business, arguing that their work is just as demanding as distribution centre roles and that they should be paid the same. The difference in hourly pay for shop floor staff and those in distribution centres can range between £1.50 and £4 an hour.
This is the first stage in a three-step legal process for equal pay claims, and Sainsbury’s now has to show that the roles are not of equal value, or that there is a genuine reason for the pay difference that is not based on gender.
In June, Tesco shop floor workers also represented by Leigh Day won a legal argument in their fight for equal pay when the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the single source test applies to UK businesses, which means a worker can compare their role with somebody working in a different establishment if a single source has the power to correct the difference in pay.
The ruling follows a landmark judgment from the Supreme Court, which confirmed that Asda shop floor staff can compare their roles to those in distribution centres for the purposes of equal pay.
Mike Keenan, a solicitor in the employment team at Leigh Day, explained that this is a “huge” milestone for the workers and something to celebrate.
“Now that Sainsbury’s finally agrees shop floor workers compare their roles to staff in distribution centres, we can focus on what’s at the heart of these claims: whether the work is of equal value. Leigh Day believes it is and we’re confident that the employment tribunal will agree,” he said.
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “We will continue to robustly defend our position in this litigation because we stand by our position that roles in stores and depots are fundamentally different.”