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Co-op supermarkets latest to face equal pay claims

An equal pay claim has been launched on behalf of supermarket workers at the Co-op. The first hearing for the claim will be at Manchester Employment Tribunal on Friday, 24 January 2020.

Supermarket aisle

20 January 2020

More than 100 employees, mostly female, who work in Co-op Group Limited stores from Devon to Glasgow, are claiming that their work is of equal value to that of men who work in the supermarket’s distribution centres. Law firm Leigh Day believe up to 50,000 current and former employees could be entitled to bring such an equal pay claim against Co-op Group Limited.
 
Leigh Day is acting for the former and current employees in a group claim for back pay up to six years. The workers believe they are entitled to be paid the same hourly rate as men in the distribution centres because their work, although different, is of equal value. They will argue that as the work is of equal value, the fact that the roles are not paid equally is discriminatory.
 
Leigh Day has ongoing equal pay claims on behalf of over 40,000 workers at Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s
 
The difference in hourly pay for a shop floor worker and a distribution centre worker at the Co-op can range from £1.50 to £3. Lawyers believe the average worker could be entitled to £10,000 in back pay up to six years. Some may be entitled to as much as £20,000.
 
Co-op supermarket worker Christine Green, aged 57, of Pointon, Lincolnshire, was one of the women to start the equal pay case. Christine has worked at the Co-op for six years, first at the store in Billingborough, and currently at the Sleaford store.
 
Christine said: “I enjoy working at the Co-op, it’s a great place to have a job. But the way I look at it, those of us who work ‘front-of-house’ on the shop floor, deserve a fair wage for what we do. And to my mind, that means equal pay with those workers in the distribution warehouses. In our jobs we are under constant pressure; I want equal pay for everyone working front-of-house. The Co-op needs to ask, are we being fair to all the people we are employing?”

Michael Newman, a partner in the employment team at Leigh Day, said: “In the stores women are more routinely employed to work on the shop floor and deal with customers. Those working in the warehouses are overwhelmingly men. Despite equal pay laws being in place for almost 50 years, the group that is mostly men gets paid more. We say this cannot be lawful.

"Our clients believe that the jobs have comparable demands, and similar responsibilities. Co-op rely on both the male and female workers to make sure that they can sell as much food to their customers as possible, and the female workers have the additional responsibility of dealing with the public. This case is not about whether the jobs are identical; it is saying they are of equal value.”

In a Supreme Court ruling in October 2012 Leigh Day won the right for equal pay claims to be brought in the High Court up to six years after a worker leaves the employment where pay discrimination may have occurred. The judgment effectively extended the time limit for equal pay claims from six months to six years, the biggest change to Equal Pay legislation since it was introduced in 1970, with huge implications for hundreds of thousands of workers.

Corrected on Thursday 23 January 2020

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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