Leigh Day said the claims lodged so far are only the first 1,000 of many, and said it expects the number of claims, which concern the disparity in pay between store staff and those in the predominantly male dominated distribution centres, will continue to rise.
The firm announced in February that it would take legal action against Tesco, and since then has spoken to thousands of staff members who work in the supermarket’s stores and are paid “considerably less than their colleagues in the distribution centres”.
According to Leigh Day, people working in the distribution centres may earn in excess of £11.00 an hour whilst the most common grade for store staff sees them receive around £8.00 per hour.
This “underpayment” could apply to more than 250,000 Tesco employees, the law firm said, meaning estimated pay shortfalls could reach £20,000 and the final bill for Tesco could be as high as £4bn.
Paula Lee, one of the lawyers handling the Tesco claims at Leigh Day, said: “We’ve had an incredible response to the announcement of this legal action. Many proud members of staff have realised that this claim is not anti-Tesco, but it is to ensure that the work done in stores and distribution centres is recognised as being of equal value; not the same work, but work of equal value and that they should be paid the same as their colleagues in distribution.
“Both store staff and distribution staff play an essential role in making billions of pounds for Tesco executives and shareholders, they should both be paid equally for what they contribute to the business.
“The concept of ‘women’s work’ is an outdated approach to employment from the middle of the last century which needs to be corrected.”
A Tesco spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on an ongoing legal matter, but we will be defending this claim about equal pay. 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.”