Comparison of shop floor to distribution centre employees at Co-op is approved
The Co-op has conceded that shop floor staff can be compared to distribution centre employees for the purposes of determining equal pay. They are the final supermarket chain involved in a long-running equal pay battle to acknowledge that these two roles are comparable. This is an important decision because comparability is the first stage in the legal process for equal pay claims. Co-op will now have to show that the roles are not of equal value, or that the pay difference is not based on gender, in order to defend the claim.
The argument being put forward suggests that the work carried out by mostly-female retail staff is just as demanding as the work carried out by distribution centre workers, who are mostly male. The rate of pay for distribution centre staff is higher than shop floor workers’ pay in most major retailers.
In March 2021, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark judgement in the equal pay case brought against Asda, ruling that shop floor staff can be compared to warehouse workers. This was followed by a case involving Tesco in the Court of Justice of the European Union. Next and Sainsbury’s have also conceded on the issue of comparability in the equal pay claims they face, while an employment tribunal in September 2021 ruled that Morrisons workers can also compare their roles. It is therefore likely that significant awards will follow in these arguments as retailers seek to defend years of different pay across the two types of employee.