Co-op is facing equal pay claims from over 400 employees, mostly female, who say they are underpaid compared to their male counterparts.
The workers, represented by law firm Leigh Day, believe they are entitled to be paid the same hourly rate as men in the distribution centres because their work, although different, “is of equal value”. They argue that as the work is of equal value, the fact that the roles are not paid equally is “discriminatory”.
Michael Newman, a partner in the employment team at Leigh Day, said: “In the stores women are more routinely employed to work on the shop floor and deal with customers.
“Those working in the warehouses are overwhelmingly men. Despite equal pay laws being in place for almost 50 years, the group that is mostly men gets paid more. We say this cannot be lawful.”
He added: “Our clients believe that the jobs have comparable demands, and similar responsibilities.
“Co-op rely on both the male and female workers to make sure that they can sell as much food to their customers as possible, and the female workers have the additional responsibility of dealing with the public. This case is not about whether the jobs are identical; it is saying they are of equal value.”
A Co-op Spokesman said: “We have received a small number of equal pay claims. Unlike some of the bigger food retailers, we do not have large scale multiple claims. It wouldn’t be appropriate to comment on individual claims, but we will be defending these claims and are confident that our reward practices are fair.”