An employment tribunal has rejected Sainsbury’s argument that equal pay claims for store staff should be struck out.
Following the judgment of the Birmingham Employment Tribunal, the claims worth thousands of pounds for each client, and millions in total, will continue to a hearing.
Law firm Leigh Day is representing over 2000 clients against Sainsbury’s in an equal pay claim and had been issuing groups of claims together on the same claim form for submission to the employment tribunal. The supermarket argued that multiple claims should not have been put on one form.
The tribunal dismissed Sainsbury’s arguments and ruled that the equal pay claims against the supermarket can move forward following the battle over the technicalities of the claim forms.
The battle relates to Rule 6 of The Employment Tribunals Rules of Procedure 2013 which sets out the steps the tribunal could take if different equal pay claims are put on one claim form.
At the Rule 6 hearing Sainsbury’s argued that the tribunals should strike out the claims where the women in stores did different jobs. Leigh Day argued that the tribunal should “use its discretion” to let the claims continue as it “makes no difference to how the claims are dealt with”.
The tribunal ruled it will use its discretion and allow the 141 claims in question to continue. Had Sainsbury’s been successful, the amount of compensation that could be recovered by the claimants would be limited.
Now that the employment tribunal has made its ruling the case against Sainsbury’s will proceed, with the next stage being to determine which of the higher paid jobs in the warehouse form part of the comparison for equal pay.
The issue of how many claimants can be detailed on one claim form was also raised in the Asda equal pay claim in 2015, however, the Court of Appeal eventually also ruled that the claims could proceed.
Leigh Day represents over 35,000 shop floor staff from the big five supermarkets – Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons and the Co-Op – in similar equal pay cases. In the cases the supermarket workers argue that work carried out in stores, which is predominantly carried out by women, is of equal value to that carried out in the supermarkets’ distribution centres, which is predominantly carried out by men, and argue that as both groups of workers are preforming work of equal value they should receive the same rate of pay.
Linda Wong, solicitor for the Sainsbury’s workers, said: “We are pleased that the tribunal has used their common sense to allow these claims to proceed. Sainsbury’s had tried to get them thrown out on a technicality that made absolutely no difference to the issues in the case but limited the amount they would have to pay out to hard working staff. This was yet another attempt by Sainsbury’s to delay the courts from making a decision about whether they have an equal pay problem.
“These claims started in 2015, and Sainsbury’s have continued to drag their feet and raise petty issues in an attempt to stall the claims. Previous judgments in the Court of Appeal have made it clear equal pay claims such as these issued together should proceed. Sainsbury’s would be better placed working to pay their employees fairly and resolve these claims rather than to delay the legal process with unnecessary challenges.”
Retail Sector has reached out to Sainsbury’s for comment.