Associate Nathaniel Barber examines the equal pay cases against supermarkets and urges them to start paying these workers equal pay for equal work, in The Legal Diary.
Nathaniel’s article was published in The Legal Diary, 18 March 2022, and can be found here.
Clap for Key Workers – remember that? Every Thursday people would come out onto their doorstep to pay tribute to those on the front line keeping the nation going.
Amongst those on the front line were supermarket workers on the shop floor. Beyond keeping the nation fed, these men and women had to deal with unprecedented panic buying, supply chain problems leading to bare shelves, and interacting with the general public while everyone else was avoiding contact with others.
However, their self-sacrifice has been ignored by their employers.
Shop floor workers have been underpaid for years. These – mostly female – workers are paid significantly less than their – mostly male – colleagues in distribution centres. Yet, the two roles are largely the same; there is no sensible reason why they shouldn’t be paid the same.
This analysis has been rejected by the supermarkets. The supermarkets have argued that store workers could not compare themselves to the distribution centre workers. These arguments have been roundly rejected: Tesco appealed to the European Court of Justice, and ASDA brought a similar appeal to the UK Supreme Court. Both were rejected.
Recently, it was announced that the Co-Operative would concede on the issue of comparability between its store and distribution centre workers, clearly recognising the uphill struggle faced by supermarkets. So, where next?
We are facing the worst squeeze on household expenses in a generation and yet supermarkets have announced record breaking profits for their shareholders. Considering that they have been rebuffed by the Courts, the supermarkets must now start paying these workers equal pay for equal work.