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Next accused of destroying key documents in equal pay legal action

National retailer Next has been accused of destroying vital documents needed to help store staff prove their ongoing equal pay claim.

Posted on 13 October 2020

National retailer Next has been accused of destroying vital documents needed to help store staff prove their ongoing equal pay claim.

Law firm Leigh Day, acting on behalf of store staff, argue that the alleged destroying of the documents is a clear breach an Employment Tribunal Order instructing Next to keep the paperwork safe.

There will now be a one-day Employment Tribunal hearing on Tuesday, 12th January 2021 to decide how and why the documents came to be destroyed and what, if any, penalty should be applied to Next.

One potential consequence is a ‘Strike-Out Order’ meaning the retailer, who is denying the allegation, would lose the right to continue to defend any equal pay claims lodged before the hearing.

Next employs 25,000 store staff across 500 stores in the UK and Ireland. Already, there are more than 330 claims lodged with the Employment Tribunal.

If all eligible staff joined the claim, the potential cost to the retail giant is £200m.

Next store staff recently became the latest employees to join Leigh Day’s Equal Pay Now campaign.

Next store staff, mostly women, argue their work is no less demanding than that of their male colleagues in the warehouses who, on average, earn between £2 and £6 more per hour.

The firm also represents store workers from Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Tesco and the Co-op in similar equal pay cases.

Elizabeth George, a barrister in the employment team at Leigh Day, said:

It appears that essential documents to our case have been destroyed. Next will have a full opportunity to explain how and why that was allowed to happen at the hearing in January and it would be wrong to pre-empt the Tribunal’s ruling on that.

“I can say that it is fundamental to a fair hearing of this case that neither side destroy documents that they know (or should know) are highly relevant to the other’s case.

“The Equal Pay Now campaign is about bringing store staff from different retail sectors together, so that they do not feel theirs is an individual fight because that is pretty daunting.”

“We have one focus, ending the unequal pay that applies between the stores and the warehouses for men and women doing equal work.”

Pauline Costello, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, has worked at a Next for more than 10 years. She said:

“When I was told exactly how much higher the warehouse pay was, I was shocked and angry and felt extremely undervalued.”

“To find out now that Next may have destroyed important documents is yet another blow. I feel angry and betrayed and have now lost all respect for the company.”

“I’m hopeful for a positive outcome at the hearing. It will help to restore my confidence and self-respect because finally the company I have worked hard for will now recognise that my role as a sales consultant is as valuable as a warehouse operative.”

For more information or to join the claim visit www.equalpaynow.co.uk/next-equal-pay/

Elizabeth George
Employment Equal pay Group claims

Elizabeth George

Elizabeth George is a barrister with expertise in all areas of employment law.

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