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European Union

Tesco has said it will continue to “strongly defend” its right to pay tens of thousands of shop and distribution centre staff different rates, despite a landmark EU ruling.

The European Court of Justice yesterday ruled an EU law did apply to UK staff making equal pay claims against their employer.

Tesco workers, the majority of whom are women, claim they have failed to receive equal pay for work of equal value with colleagues in its distribution centres, who are mostly men, and that it is in breach of EU and UK laws.

Tesco and law firm Leigh Day, which is acting on behalf of the workers, sought a clarification from the Court of Justice of the European Union, asking the court to rule whether the so-called “single source” test applies to businesses in the UK.

The EU has now made it clear these particular provisions of EU law do apply directly to private businesses in the UK.

The decision is the latest milestone in an issue impacting on big food retailers.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled Asda shop workers can compare their roles with those of their colleagues in distribution centres for the purposes of equal pay, in another long-running case.

“This judgement reinforces the Supreme Court’s ruling that the roles of shop floor workers can be compared to those of their colleagues in distribution centres for the purposes of equal pay,” said Kiran Dauka, a partner at Leigh Day.

“For a long time, employers have argued UK law in this area is unclear, but this judgment is simple: if there is a single body responsible for ensuring equality, the roles are comparable.

“Clarification from the CJEU confirms this single source test can be relied upon by people in the UK bringing an equal value claim. This means employers can no longer hide behind the grey areas of UK law.

“It’s time for supermarkets to accept the roles of shop floor workers and distribution centre workers are comparable.”

“The jobs in our stores and distribution centres are different,” said a Tesco spokesman. “These roles require different skills and demands which lead to variations in pay – but this has absolutely nothing to do with gender. We reward our colleagues fairly for the jobs they do and work hard to ensure the pay and benefits we offer are fair, competitive and sustainable. These claims are extremely complex and will take many years to reach a conclusion. We continue to strongly defend these claims.” 

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