--The EU Court of Justice has backed aspects of claims by 6,000
Tesco employees regarding equal pay
--The U.K. Supreme Court had already similarly upheld the claims
of 44,000 Asda workers on the same issue
--Both companies argue that salary differences are based on the
nature of each job rather than on gender
By Matteo Castia
The Court of Justice of the European Union on Thursday
recognized the legitimacy of claims brought forward by some
employees of Tesco PLC in their dispute with the British grocer
regarding equal pay.
The group of around 6,000 Tesco current or former staff have
claimed the retail giant hasn't been paying men and women equally
at its premises. Tesco employs around 250,000 workers.
Claimants have pointed to the salary difference between shop
workers-- mostly women--and distribution workers, mostly men, and
accused Tesco of discriminating against the first group by paying
them less than the second.
The lawsuit arrived at the EU Court of Justice after the group
of employees took their case to a tribunal in Watford, England.
"The female claimants in the main proceedings submit that their
work and that of the male workers employed by Tesco Stores in the
distribution centers in its network are of equal value and that
they are entitled to compare their work and that of those workers,"
the court said.
The grocer's position is that the jobs in its stores and
distribution centers are different, hence the different pay, and
that the EU law provisions the claimants refer to aren't directly
effective in the context of claims based on work of equal
"These roles require different skills and demands which lead to
variations in pay--but this has absolutely nothing to do with
gender," a Tesco spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal.
The court backed the claimants' views on the case, stating that
the grocer should be seen as a single entity in terms of employment
conditions and referring to the principle of work of equal
The court said that where the differences identified in the pay
conditions of workers performing equal work or work of equal value
can be attributed to a single source, the work and the pay of those
workers can be compared, even if they work in different
"The principle, laid down by EU law, of equal pay for male and
female workers can be relied upon directly, in respect both of
equal work and of work of equal value," the court said.
This specific ruling isn't a judgment on the claims against
Tesco, as the court's pronunciation represents a decision on
whether the EU test for comparability of two different roles based
in different establishments but within one organization applies
directly to private businesses in the UK. With its Thursday
statement, the court established that these provisions do apply
directly to private businesses in the U.K., in accordance with the
country's Brexit deal with the EU.
"Equal-pay cases have historically been seen as a public sector
issue, but private sector businesses, can't assume they're immune,
particularly as social media is now used to recruit claimants for
mass claims and crowdfunding can be used to fund them," law firm
Howard Kennedy partner Jane Amphlett said in March, when Asda Group
Ltd. found itself involved in a similar case.
At that time, the British retailer was taken to the U.K. Supreme
Court by 44,000 employees seeking compensation on the basis that in
the six-year period prior to commencing proceedings in 2014 they
had received less pay than a valid comparator for the same
Again, lower-paid shop staff, mostly women, argued that they
could compare themselves with higher-paid warehouse workers, mostly
men. On that occasion, shop-floor workers were supported by labor
union GMB, which had members involved in the case.
On March 26, the Supreme Court upheld the retail employees'
view, as well as an earlier ruling against which Asda had
"The essential question on this appeal was whether common terms
apply between the claimants' and comparator's establishments,
satisfying the common terms requirement in the equal pay
legislation," the Supreme Court said at the time.
Asda had taken a position similar to Tesco's, saying the pay gap
was dictated by the different nature of the two jobs rather than by
gender, as there was a substantial difference between the two
"The pay in our stores and distribution centers is the same for
colleagues doing the same jobs regardless of their gender. Retail
and distribution are very different sectors with their own distinct
skill sets and pay rates," an Asda spokesperson told The Wall
Street Journal at the time.
The Supreme Court had also made clear that its ruling didn't
mean the claimants had won the right to equal pay, as the decision
just paved the way for them to take further action.
However, as Ms. Amphlett noted back in March, the Supreme Court
may had started a path that could well end up with a
multimillion-pound bill for Asda.
Write to Matteo Castia at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 03, 2021 10:54 ET (14:54 GMT)
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