An equal pay claim in the UK against Tesco that could cost the company £4bn (€4.5bn) if successful would have “profound effects” for supermarket employees in Ireland, an employment law expert has said, writes Pádraig Hoare.
The UK supermarket is facing a potential bill of up to £4bn to bring the wages of its female employees into line with men, according to Leigh Day, the law firm pursuing the UK’s largest equal pay claim.
Tesco is the UK’s biggest retailer and its largest private sector employer with more than 310,000 staff.
There are 9,500 staff in 55 stores in the North, included in the 310,000. In Ireland, which is outside the claim, there are around 14,500 in 148 stores. There was no breakdown of gender available from Tesco.
Leigh Day said mainly male staff in the company’s distribution centres were paid considerably more than its largely female store workers.
It said Tesco distribution centre staff may earn over £11 an hour, while most store staff received around £8.
The law firm said more than 200,000 Tesco employees may be underpaid and estimated shortfalls could reach £20,000 each, meaning a bill of £4bn.
Employment law lecturer at the University of Limerick Eddie Keane said if the claim proved the work was equal, then it was a “slamdunk case” that would have “profound effects” for the workers in here.
“You can be sure Irish unions are looking closely and while the UK courts would not have the same legal standing in the Republic, the case law is very persuasive. Could Irish workers be looking at equal pay if the UK workers are successful? Absolutely,” he said.
He said a likely course of action if the UK claim was successful would be Tesco and other supermarkets immediately implementing changes in Irish contracts, thereby equalising pay.
Tesco said it had not received any notice of a legal claim so far. A spokeswoman for Tesco Ireland said:
“Tesco has always been a place for people to get on in their career, regardless of their gender, background or education, and we work hard to make sure all our colleagues are paid fairly and equally for the jobs they do.”