Tesco faces threat of £4bn back pay bill

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Kim Element says the men's and women's jobs are of

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Kim Element says the men's and women's jobs are of"equal value

Tesco is Britain's biggest retailer and its largest private sector employer with more than 310,000 staff.

The law firm was contacted by more than 1,000 staff and has launched the claim for 100 of them, according to press reports. It thinks more than 200,000 staff could have been underpaid, and with estimated pay shortfalls of £20,000 per head this could leave Tesco with a bill as high as £4bn.

"There really should be no argument that workers in stores, compared to those working in distribution centers, contribute at least equal value to the vast profits made by Tesco", Leigh Day lawyer Paula Lee said.

"We are unable to comment on a claim that we have not received", a company spokeswoman said.

In fact, some organisations have warned that the pay gap may take over 100 years still, to close, indicating that considerable efforts to ensure wage parity still need to be enforced. Tesco is particularly exposed because of its size as well as a recent push to put thousands more staff on its shop floors in a bid to soften its hard-nosed image among United Kingdom consumers.

According to Leigh Day, the average hourly pay for women is 8 pounds ($11), whereas for men it could reach as high as 11 pounds ($15.40).

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Law firm Leigh Day says Tesco does not follow an equal pay policy in its stores.

Across the United Kingdom, men earned 18.4 percent more than women in April 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures.

"Tesco has always been a place for people to get on in their career, regardless of their gender, background or education, and we work hard to make sure all our colleagues are paid fairly and equally for the jobs they do", he said.

Tesco's shares were down 0.8 per cent at 9:50am in London on Wednesday.

"The law says women are entitled to equal pay for doing the same job or for work of equal value".

Leigh Day specialides in human-rights cases that have turned it into a thorn in the side of large companies.

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Similar earlier actions alleging pay inequality are being pursued against Tesco's competitors, Asda and Sainsbury's and are going through the employment tribunal process.

An equal pay case is being taken against supermarket giant Tesco which lawyers estimate could lead to a bill of £4 billion.

For all retail staff, work is already becoming less secure.

If the claim is successful it could have huge implications for British industry.

Asda is set to appeal the ruling later this year.

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