20 September 2018
It appears that Morrisons is the latest of the ‘Big Four’ supermarkets (so called due to their dominance of the market share) to face a string of Equal Pay claims. Whilst Tesco still holds the lion’s share, controlling 27.4% of the available market, Morrisons’ not so insignificant 10.2% keeps it firmly rooted as one of the most influential chains in the UK. The claimants’ representatives are well versed in this matter as they are already overseeing legal action on behalf of 30,000 employees at ASDA, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
The claim is still in its infancy with legal representatives expected to lodge a claim this week on behalf of eight Morrisons employees at first. However, close to 80,000 could also be considered eligible. If successful, the claim could cost the supermarket over £1bn in potential ‘back pay’ and compensation. A spokesperson for Morrisons has stated, “We are not aware of any court proceedings issued by a third party. We have received a letter asking us a number of questions about our pay policies.”
There has long been considered a clear pattern among supermarkets that those working in the distribution centres (the majority of which are male) are paid considerably more than those staffing the actual stores (the majority of which are female), with evidence purporting to show as much as a £4 hourly difference.
Obvious similarities can be drawn between this claim and that against ASDA, and not just because the latter claim also has a financial value of close to £100m. In both instances the claimants are seeking to show that the differences in pay are unlawful due to the work being of ‘equal value’. In other words, the work is equal in terms of demands made on the claimant by reference to factors such as effort, skill and decision making.
In September 2017, ASDA’s EAT appeal was rejected, therefore allowing the supermarket’s store workers to compare themselves to those working in its distribution centres despite the clear geographical and circumstantial differences. ASDA’s appeal against the EAT decision is due to be held in the Court of Appeal next month. and it is widely expected that the Morrisons claim will be stayed until ASDA’s outcome is more certain.