Shop floor workers at the Co-op supermarket have won an important legal argument in their battle to get equal pay with warehouse staff.

The 1,600 floor workers at the chain are mainly female and have been working to get the same pay as their mostly male counterparts in the warehouse. 

Warehouse workers are paid up to £3 more than those on the shop floor.

At an ongoing pay tribunal, Co-op insisted its workers were paid ‘fairly’, while also conceding a “comparability concession”. However, it insisted it would ‘continue to defend these claims’.

Supporters believe the concession is one step closer for shop workers to be recognised as doing a role of equal value to those in the warehouse

Other supermarkets like Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons had similar equal pay disputes with their staff. It’s estimated the cost of these cases would cost supermarkets £8 billion in back pay.

Last March (2021), the Supreme Court made a landmark judgement which found that  Asda’s 44,000 shop floor workers could compare their roles to colleagues in distribution centres to get equal pay. But the judge making the ruling did make it clear that the claimants had not actually won equal pay, just the basis to take further legal action.

Solicitors Leigh Day are the representatives of the Co-op workers. Tom Hewitt from the firm said: “We hope that Co-op recognises that they can no longer deny that the work store workers do is of equal value to that of their distribution centre colleagues”.

Kate Palmer is HR Advice & Consultancy Director at Peninsula. She said: “Introducing pay gap reporting can be a useful way of evaluating the salaries of employees from different genders and proactively take steps to ensure pay parity and avoid situations like this. Employers who pay their staff equally minimise the risk of pay-related grievances and discrimination claims. Doing so also contributes towards an improved company culture, supporting diversity and inclusion, which helps to boost staff motivation, retention and productivity.”

She added: “Whilst employers do not need to disclose the wages of individual employees, clear salary structures and pay progression schemes can further improve transparency and integrity within an organisation.”