Tesco staff win equal pay battle in European Court


The European Court of Justice has ruled that thousands of former and current Tesco employees working in stores can compare their roles to staff working in distribution centres for the purpose of equal pay.

A group of the supermarket giant’s mostly female shop floor staff, represented by law firm Leigh Day, claimed they were being unfairly paid in comparison to distribution centre employees, who are largely men. They argued that Tesco had breached European Union (EU) and UK laws by paying them less than those working in the distribution centres.

According to EU law, a woman can compare her role to that of a man’s working in a different establishment if a single source has the power to correct the difference in pay. As a result, the European court stated in its ruling: “Where such pay conditions can be attributed to a single source, the work and the pay of those workers can be compared, even if they work in different establishments.”

Kiran Daurka, a partner in the employment team at Leigh Day, said: “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.”

“For a long time, employers have argued that UK law in this area is unclear, but this judgement is simple, if there is a single body responsible for ensuring equality, the roles are comparable,” Daurka added.

Despite this, Tesco insisted jobs in stores and distribution centres required different skills that demand different variations of pay.

According to the supermarket, that the ruling was not a specific judgement on the claims, but a decision on whether the EU test for comparability of two different roles based in different establishments, but within one organisation, applies directly to private businesses in the UK.

A spokeperson for Tesco said: “This has nothing to do with gender. We reward our staff 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. We continue to strongly defend these claims.”