Employment Judge Davies, sitting in the Leeds Employment Tribunal, had cleared the way for Morrisons retail staff to argue for the same wages as distribution centre workers in a combined claim valued at up to £100 million, adding to the growing body of case law against the unequal pay policies of major retailers.
Specialist law firm Roscoe Reid has recorded a significant victory for thousands of current and former shop floor staff against British supermarket giant Morrisons.
In the decision handed down by Employment Judge Davies, it was confirmed that Morrisons’ retail workers may rely on the supermarket’s distribution centre workers as comparators in their claims for equal pay.
The question decided following a hearing on 21-22 September, was the same issue as was decided in the Supreme Court against Asda in March this year. A key question was “whether the warehouse logistics workers would be (or would have been) employed on “broadly the same” terms and conditions if employed at the Claimants’ establishments.”
Morrisons argued that the tribunal should find that the retail workers cannot be compared to the distribution centre workers, because each Morrisons distribution centre has individual, collectively-bargained terms and conditions, influenced by individual geographical differences at each site. They argued that this means the employment terms of distribution centre workers are not common across all sites, so retail workers cannot be compared to them as a group. They also argued that individual negotiations of terms means the distribution and retail workers are not employed by the same source.
Morrisons did not succeed on these arguments. The tribunal found it would be against the “fundamental principle of equal pay” if the employer could avoid equal pay obligations by using collective bargaining.
A further question was whether the terms at the various distribution centres were “broadly similar”. Employment Judge Davies found that they were, noting that “Their broad similarity is elucidated by contrast with the retail terms, which do not have, for example, any entitlement at all to paid overtime, paid breaks or unsocial hours premiums. The basic rates of logistics pay are all within 27p of each other and all more than £1 higher than the basic retail rate.”
The tribunal also had to consider whether there was a “single source” for the terms on which retail and distribution workers were employed. Employment Judge Davies found Morrions arguments “wholly unpersuasive” and that there was: “Taking a step back, put simply Morrisons employs the retail workers and logistics warehouse workers. It is responsible for their terms and conditions and it could restore equal treatment if required and if it so chose. I reject Morrisons’ arguments to the contrary.”
The ruling adds to a growing body of case law supporting accusations of pay discrimination against mostly female shop floor workers at major retailers, who are generally paid between £1 and £2 pounds less than their mainly male counterparts in depots.
The ruling clears an important hurdle in Morrisons’ retail workers’ legal battle for equal pay. The case will now proceed to further hearings examining whether store worker and distribution roles are of equal value; and whether there is a reason – other than sex discrimination – for the two jobs not to be paid equally.
Commenting on the decision, Ellie Pinnells, a partner and group litigation specialist at Roscoe Reid said:
“We are hugely encouraged by this decision which, following the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Asda case, gives hope to thousands of mostly female workers who have been unfairly underpaid by their employer.
“As Employment Judge Davies noted, “Responsibility for any inequality and for putting it right, remains with the Board.” I would urge the board of Morrisons, and any party interested in a take-over of Morrisons, to put right a wrong that has persisted since the Equal Pay Act 1974 ”
“While this is just the first stage in a lengthy process, our claimants can feel reassured that the tribunal has recognised and validated this crucial part of their claims.
“We look forward to the next stage.”
Over 40,000+ equal pay claims have been made by employees against supermarkets, with claim payouts reportedly reaching millions due to unfair treatment of staff. Morrisons is facing a potential £100 million claim from shop floor workers who have been employed at the retailer at any point in the past six years.
For more information about Roscoe Reid’s equal pay claim service, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Roscoe Reid
Roscoe Reid is a specialist law firm which focuses on helping individuals make claims against large companies and organisations.
Our lawyers are all experts with years of experience in bringing claims against some of the world’s largest companies. We have a very successful track record in helping individuals bring these type of claims.
Whether you are an employee or a consumer, taking on your employer or a big company on your own can be off-putting. That is one of the reasons why our main focus is on pursuing claims for large groups of claimants.
There is strength in numbers and our experienced lawyers know how to stand up to big companies and how best to fight your battles for you to get you the compensation that you deserve under the law.