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Tesco is facing a record £4bn equal pay claim

Tesco is facing a record £4bn equal pay claim

Tesco (LON:TSCO) is potentially set to face a record £4 billion equal pay claim, according to a law firm representing many of its female store staff.

Tesco is Britain's biggest retailer and its largest private sector employer with a staff of over 310,000.

Lawyers argue that employees working in the male-dominated distribution centres are paid considerably more than the largely female-staffed Tesco stores, and may earn £11 an hour while the most common grade for store staff sees them receive around £8 per hour.

More than 1,000 Tesco staff members have reportedly contacted law firm Leigh Day, and the firm plans to begin taking the initial legal steps for 100 of them this week.

Leigh Day believes as many as 200,000 Tesco workers are affected by this pay gap.

The firm's Paula Lee, who is representing the Tesco women, said: "We believe an inherent bias has allowed store workers to be underpaid over many years".

"In terms of equal worth to the company there really should be no argument that workers in stores, compared to those working in distribution centres, contribute at least equal value to the vast profits made by Tesco which past year had group sales of £49.9 billion".

The law firm is also working on claims against supermarket rivals Asda, the British arm of Walmart (WMT.N), and Sainsbury's (SBRY.L), which date back to 2012 and 2015 respectively.

Asda is set to appeal the ruling later this year. The employees were both current and former employees of the supermarket chain.

In 2012, Birmingham city council agreed to pay about a billion pounds to settle the claims of tens of thousands of women workers.

"The difference in pay is probably due to the nature of the work rather than gender, but the Tesco claim could have big repercussions across other retail businesses", according to Maureen Hinton, director at retail researcher Conlumino.

Lawyers say the hourly wage of its female store staff proved less than their male counterparts, despite engaging in similar work.

Sam Smethers, chief executive of women's rights charity the Fawcett Society, said the claim is the "latest in a long line" of equal value cases.

"In the next stage (it) will decide whether the jobs of the store colleagues and the warehouse colleagues are of equal value".

A Tesco spokesman responded: "We are unable to comment on a claim that we have not received".

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