Tesco faces record 4 billion pound equal pay claim in Britain

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The massive retailer is facing Britain’s largest ever equal pay claim from women.

Tesco is facing Britain’s largest ever equal pay claim and a possible compensation bill of up to 4 billion pounds ($5.6 billion), according to a law firm which has begun legal proceedings.

Tesco is Britain’s biggest retailer and its largest private sector employer with a staff of over 310,000.

Law firm Leigh Day said on Wednesday the mainly male employees in Tesco’s distribution centres were paid considerably more than its largely female store workers.

It said distribution centre staff may earn in excess of 11 pounds ($15.4) an hour whilst the most common grade for store staff sees them receive around 8 pounds per hour.

This disparity could see a full-time distribution worker on the same hours earning over 100 pounds a week, or 5,000 pounds a year, more than female based store staff.

Claims against rivals

The law firm is also working on claims against supermarket rivals Asda, the British arm of Walmart, and Sainsbury’s, which date back to 2012 and 2015 respectively.

Unequal pay for men and women is currently a hot topic in Britain’s boardrooms and corridors of power. The resignation last month of Carrie Gracie as China Editor for the BBC led to an investigation into pay differences at the public broadcaster.

British Business Secretary Greg Clark was surprised by the scale of a 4 billion pound ($5.6 billion) equal pay claim that is being brought against supermarket chain Tesco, he told Sky News on Wednesday.

“I was surprised to see the scale of this,” Clark said in an interview. “This is a proposed action in the courts, so it hasn’t been determined yet… so I shouldn’t prejudge this.”

A Tesco spokesman said the firm had not yet received a claim.

“Tesco has always been a place for people to get on in their career, regardless of their gender, background or education, and we work hard to make sure all our colleagues are paid fairly and equally for the jobs they do,” he said.

Tesco shares fell as much as 3 percent, but had recovered to trade up 0.6 percent at 1350 GMT.

($1 = 0.7147 pounds).

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