Supermarket chain Morrisons is facing equal pay claims worth over £1bn for female shop floor staff who believe they were paid less than men working in distribution centres.
Law firm Leigh Day said that Morrisons has around 80,000 store staff eligible to claim, which could result in a bill for back pay of over £1bn if the Bradford-based grocer‘s action is found to be unlawful.
The law firm is already working on claims on behalf of 30,000 workers at Leeds-based Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
Emma Satyamurti, a partner at Leigh Day, said: “We believe that Morrisons, as with the other major supermarkets, has underpaid those working in its stores for a number of years.
“The big four supermarkets in the UK make vast amounts each year in profits – it is time that they faced up to their legal obligations under Equal Pay legislation.
“Our clients believe that those working on the shop floor should be paid the same as those in the distribution centres, and a failure to commit to this is not only unfair but unlawful.
“This legal action is being taken forward to ensure that the work done in stores and distribution centres is recognised as being of equal value; not the same work, but work of equal value and that those working on the shop floor should be paid the same as their colleagues in distribution.”
A spokesperson for Morrisons said: “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. Our aim is to pay our colleagues fairly and equally for the job that they do, irrespective of their gender.”
Leigh Day said it believes employees working in male-dominated distribution centres were paid considerably more than largely female-staffed stores.
The law firm has lodged claims with the conciliation service ACAS while awaiting a response from Morrisons’ CEO David Potts, who they have written to on behalf of the first group of clients requesting Pay and Gender information for workers.
Leigh Day has also asked Morrisons to confirm if it has carried out an equal pay audit, something the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests is the most effective way of ensuring an organisation meets its equal pay obligations.
The law firm said it has been reported that Morrisons‘ CEO David Potts took home a £1.7m bonus in 2017 – a sum that could take a store employee 100 years to earn.
The legal action comes a day before Morrisons announces its interim results on Thursday.
Analysts at Shore Capital said Morrisons is expected to report accelerated like-for-like sales growth in the second quarter, boosted by the hot weather and the World Cup.
It is also expected to show good wholesale sales, thanks to McColl’s accelerating the agreement to fulfil 1,300 stores.
Analyst Clive Black at Shore Capital said: “Morrisons may hit its ambition for £700m of annualised wholesale sales before December 2018.”
He said that the supermarket chain is expected to show “a good deal“ more progress in the second half.
“The British grocery scene has experienced a good early summer in our view,” said Mr Black.
“The combination of the great weather supporting seasonal trade... augmented in England (at least) by Mr Southgate inspired get-togethers, family & friends food and booze infused... makes for a generally favourable trading picture to our minds.”