High street giant Next is facing its first major equal pay claim backed by hundreds of mainly female shopfloor staff and ex-shopfloor staff.
More than 300 workers have registered to participate in a claim that was filed at the conciliation service Acas yesterday. The claim centres on the fact that predominantly female store staff earn on average 24% less than those, mostly male staff, working the warehouses, who also have access to more lucrative bonuses.
The group is being represented by Elizabeth George, head of the employment team at legal firm Pattinson & Brewer. George said: “there really aren’t many simpler legal concepts to grasp than this one – staff doing comparable jobs should be paid the same amount.
“But when you look across every work sector, you will see work, that is traditionally viewed as women’s work, being undervalued. The physical and mental demands on the shop floor are no less than those in the warehouses. The only thing of less substance is the minimum wage being given to our clients,” she said.
Any staff member who has left Next within the last six years may be eligible to make a claim and, if the claim is successful, the workers bringing the action could be entitled to up to six years’ worth of backpay, potentially eaving Next with a £30m bill.
Other retailers, such as ASDA and Sainsbury’s, are facing similar claims, which are working their way through the employment tribunal process, while Morrisons is also set to face a similar claim as lawyers have collected 200 names with the intention of approaching Acas.
In statement Next said it was waiting to hear from Acas and had not yet been made award of any claims against it. “The difference between working in a warehouse and a store at Next is, however, more significant than for any of the retailers now involved in litigation,” Next said.
“Next values all its employees, regardless of their gender, role and place of work within the business. Next is also confident that all its employees are paid legally, fairly and appropriately for the jobs they perform,” it added.