All Things Being Equal – The Great Supermarket Sweep

The news that supermarket giant, Tesco, could be facing an equal pay claim worth up to a record £4 billion added fuel to the growing issue of gender equality in the workplace. Whilst causing a sensation in the media, Verisona Law’s Head of Employment, Sue Ball, looks behind the headlines to see what lies ahead.

It is heralded as having the potential to be the highest value case of pay discrimination the UK has ever seen, with up to 200,000 mainly female store workers being in line for payouts of around £20,000 each.

In the week of celebration for the 100-year anniversary since women were given the vote, it was announced that complaints were to be lodged on behalf of almost 100 Tesco staff with ‘The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service’, or ‘ACAS’. The complaints were concerning allegations that store assistants have been paid £3 an hour less than male warehouse counterparts, for what complainants consider to be the same role.

If successful, this case could pave the way for an employment tribunal process which has already led to ongoing claims involving thousands of staff against Asda and Sainsbury's.

So was this just a well-managed publicity stunt to arouse the interest of more Tesco employees, or does this case have the potential to release a torrent of equal pay litigation?

‘Claims against Asda and Sainsbury’s have been successful in as much as the cases are being heard, but conclusion have yet to be reached and there certainly hasn’t been any compensation for workers involved,’ says employment specialist, Sue Ball.

‘Essentially, the story that gained so much coverage was a call to arms for Tesco employees and jaw-dropping figures such as 200,000 and £4 billion need to be recognised as, at best, an estimate, if not a result of guesswork.’

‘The issue that needs to be proved is that working in a supermarket store is the same as working in its warehouse. It could be argued that the former is more social, varied and prestigious, whereas the latter is more isolated, repetitive and less respected. Whilst store assistant assistants work with tills, scanners and stack shelves, those in the warehouse could operate vehicles, heavy machinery and carry boxes of goods.’

‘At the end of the day, ACAS representatives take opinion and guidance from experts in the field, and individual advisors can have very different views. Proving the similarities between these different roles, and assessing their comparative worth to the company is going to result in lengthy, demanding and complex arguments. I don’t envy the individuals who will be sitting in judgement.’

‘It’s very difficult to sensibly speculate on who I think will emerge victorious from this argument - it will depend entirely on the skill of those arguing the case. One thing is for sure, should any of the complaints against these supermarkets be upheld, it will result in a whirlwind that could seriously, if not fatally, wound retail companies across the UK.’

Here are the types of cases we handle:

  • Contracts of Employment
  • Employer Staff Handbooks
  • Redundancy Process
  • Breach of Contract
  • Breach of Restrictive Covenants
  • Tribunal Claims
  • Settlement Agreements
  • Consultancy Agreements

Sports and Football Law

  • Contracts of Employment
  • Service Agreements
  • Contractual Issues
  • Executive Departures

"Over the years, I have developed a great trust in my working relationship with Mike Dyer, Head of Commercial Law at Verisona. One of the things I value most is that he is always at the end of a phone. On the rare occasions he is unavailable, his secretary is always well informed and very helpful. Through Mike, I have met many other members of Verisona and, just like in the recruitment industry, they understand the importance of being treated like an individual. They make me feel valued and important to both them and their business. At Verisona, you always deal with real people who you know and are in a position to help. Most importantly, Verisona delivers. We recently had an urgent situation regarding the restrictive covenants of new members of staff. Employment specialist Susan Ball came in on a day off to listen to us, dissect and analyse the situation, and translate what we wanted to achieve into the best possible legal language and solution. This is just one example of the calm, efficient professionalism I have come to value from Verisona over the years. Verisona has a refreshing approach to the law. They are there when we need them, always easy to talk to, go out of their way to make sure that we understand what they are doing for us and why, and always get the best results".

Stuart Cox

Legally enforcing the tribunal award

To enforce the Tribunal award we applied to the Defendant’s local County Court for it to be registered and for permission to enforce the award.  

The Court granted the application and on the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines.  As a result the Tribunal award would appear as a County Court Judgment which would likely affect the Defendant’s credit rating. 

Time limits for enforcing Tribunal awards

It is worth noting that there is no time restriction for registering or enforcing a Tribunal award. You can enforce one even if it is several years old.  In addition, it is usually possible to claim interest on the amount until you receive payment.

A commercial business

"Thanks for all your help on this - you've been so helpful to me in guiding and explaining everything, so just to say thank you for obviously helping represent my case but also allowing me to understand the process and giving me greater awareness of what I need to be mindful of when signing future contracts".

Former employee of professional football club

Sue was easy to deal with and offered all options available. Jane was in contact beforehand to tell me what information was needed and Sue was prepared for our meeting. I cannot praise Sue and Jane enough and would have absolutely no hesitation in reommending Sue and her team.

Mr B

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