A GROUP of 31 workers across four supermarkets in Redditch have joined a legal fight for equal pay.

Law firm Leigh Day, which is acting on behalf of the workers, believe hundreds more supermarket workers across Redditch are likely to be eligible to join the claim.

The claim is on behalf of hourly paid store-based staff, mainly women, who claim their work is of equal value to that of workers, mainly men, who work in the supermarkets’ distribution centres.

The difference in hourly pay for a shop floor worker and a distribution centre worker can range from £1.50 to £4 which could mean a disparity in pay of many thousands of pounds over a year.

The staff work across the 11 Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Co-op stores throughout Redditch.

Lawyers believe the average worker could be entitled to £10,000 for up to six years back pay. Some may be entitled to as much as £20,000.

Chris Benson, a partner in the employment team, said: “It’s easy to understand why supermarket workers are frustrated with the current unfair pay.

“Since the pandemic the general public has come to appreciate the efforts of supermarket staff working on the frontline.

“In Redditch women and men are working long hours in supermarket stores – putting themselves at an increased risk to keep everyone else’s fridges and cupboards stocked.”

Tamara Hill, employment and skills policy adviser at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers ensure that they set pay fairly and competitively have taken various steps in recent years to raise pay and provide progression opportunities for all staff. However, there many legitimate reasons why rates of pay can vary for comparable work across different parts of a retail business."

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “At Sainsbury’s, we pay our colleagues according to their role, not their gender.

“Men and women in our stores are paid an equal hourly rate. Men and women in our depots are also paid equally. To suggest otherwise is wrong.

“The roles in our stores and depots are fundamentally different and cannot be compared. We will robustly defend our position.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “We work hard to ensure that we reward our colleagues fairly for the jobs they do. The pay in our stores and in our distribution, centres is the same for colleagues doing the same jobs regardless of gender.

“There are fundamental differences between the jobs in our stores vs those in distribution centres.

“These differences, in skills and demands, as well as the different markets in which they operate, do lead to variations in rates of pay between stores and distribution centres – but these are not in any way related to gender. We will strongly defend these claims.”

An Asda spokesperson said: “Whilst we respect the rights of retail workers to bring this case, we disagree with its premise.

“Retail and distribution are distinct and separate industry sectors and the jobs carried out by colleagues working in stores and distribution centres are very different. We pay the market rate for these different sectors regardless of gender.”

A Co-op spokesperson 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.”