Tesco, the Britain-based supermarket group, faces a potential £4 billion equal to $5.6 billion bill to bring wages of female employees into line with those of males, according to a law firm that is pursuing the largest claim in Britain for equal pay.
Tesco is the largest retailer in Britain and the largest employer in the private sector with over 310,000 employees.
On Wednesday, Leigh Day, a law firm said that mainly male staff working at the distribution centers were being paid considerably higher wages than its largely female work force at stores.
The firm said it was working as well on claims at rivals to Tesco such as Sainsbury’s and Asda, which is Walmart’s British arm.
Unequal pay for males and females is a hot topic currently in both boardrooms as well as corridors of power across Britain. The resignation in January of BBC China Editor Carrie Gracie led to a pay difference investigation at the broadcaster.
When asked, a spokesperson for Tesco said the company had not received any claim yet. At the same time, Greg Clark the Business Secretary of Britain said he was surprised by the size of the claim made against Tesco.
The Tesco spokesperson said that Tesco always works hard to ensure all its employees receive fair and equal pay for the jobs they are hired to do.
Leigh Day said that distribution center employees for Tesco might earn as much as £11 or $15.40 per hour, while the majority of store staff at the common grade received approximately £8 an hour.
The disparity could see a distribution worker who is full time earning more than £100 per week or £5,000 per year more than female staff at stores.
The law office said over 200,000 employees at Tesco might be underpaid and the estimated shortfalls may reach to over £20,000 for each, which means the possible bill that Tesco owes could reach to as much as £4 billion.
The law firm has already started to submit claims on behalf of clients through ACAS conciliation service, the first state in what will become an Employment Tribunal process.
Leigh Day said that more than 1,000 Tesco employees had approached them. The employees were both current and former employees of the supermarket chain.
The firm added that it was also representing more than 20,000 shopping floor workers in claims of equal pay against rival supermarket chains Asda and Sainsbury’s.