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Next on the Agenda: Retail Work and Equal Pay

BY Erin Moncur
Employment Law & HR

Law firm, Leigh Day, representing over 400 mainly female workers in floor staff roles have won the first stage in a battle for equal pay against the homeware and fashion store, Next. The legal battle is led by Elizabeth George, a barrister on the Leigh Day employment team, which had previously represented thousands of workers from Tesco in a similar claim.

Their first win of three could lead to a pay out of £100m to the many aggrieved workers, who are angry at a £2 to £6 difference in hourly wages against their mostly male warehouse worker colleagues. The first victory came about as Next conceded that the two job roles are comparable as forms of equal work, now the company will have to prove that the difference in pay is justifiable due to a material difference, other than gender, between the women’s roles and the men’s, in accordance with the Equal Pay Act 1970.

Elizabeth George, has stated that the victory was:

“very welcome news for all the hardworking Next store staff involved in this claim.

They can now move forward, and the employment tribunal can focus on the question that is the crux of these claims: is store work of equal value to the work in the warehouses?

I believe the answer should, and will be, an emphatic yes, but only time will tell.”

Leigh Day also represents clients from Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and the Co-op for similar claims of equal pay. In the Tesco case, thousands of workers won their legal battle after the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the ‘single source’ test applied in the UK and may be relied upon by workers. This test means a worker can compare their role with another working in a different establishment if a ‘single source’ has the power to correct the difference in pay. The ruling has applied in Asda Stores Ltd v Brierley and others in March of this year in which the Supreme Court ruled that shop floor workers could compare their roles to those within the company’s distribution centres. This allowed for the question of comparability to be confidently raised in the case against Next.

It may be too soon for the Next workers to celebrate, as it will still be some time before any decision is reached on whether they are entitled to equal pay. Keep an eye on our newsfeed as Law At Work will continue to keep you updated as the proceedings develop.

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