Tesco workers are taking legal action against their employer on grounds of age and gender discrimination after the supermarket cut its pay rates for working anti-social hours.
The complaint is from 17 long-serving employees, who joined Tesco before 1999, who are “extremely unhappy” at seeing their pay rates change for weekends, bank holidays and night shifts.
Tesco announced the changes in February and they had been agreed in consultation with the shopworkers’ trade union, Usdaw, and staff representatives.
The company said an accompanying 3.1 per cent pay rise to £7.62 per hour made it one of the highest payers in the retail industry.
But staff who used to receive double time for Sunday or bank holiday shifts saw their pay slashed to time and a half.
Tesco said workers would receive a “transition payment” for the changes.
A Tesco spokeswoman said:
“Earlier this year we announced a pay increase of up to 3.1% for colleagues working in our stores across the UK, in addition to a 5% turnaround bonus.
“As part of the pay negotiations we also agreed to simplify premium payments to ensure a fair and consistent approach for all colleagues.
“The minority of colleagues who were negatively impacted by this change were supported with an agreed lump sum transition payment.”
The transition payment was equivalent to the loss in pay over the next 18 months.
Leigh Day, the law firm acting for the workers, estimated thousands of long-term Tesco staff, mainly in their 40s, could be affected.
Tesco did not confirm how many workers were affected but said it was a small number.
Paula Lee from Leigh Day said its clients, who have worked for Tesco for at least 16 years, felt “their loyalty was being taken advantage of”.
The legal firm has written to Tesco asking them how many of Tesco’s staff who are paid by the hour – who are mostly over 40 years old – are affected. All staff taken on before 5 July 1999 have seen their benefits reduced.
Paula Lee, of Leigh Day’s employment and discrimination department, said:
“Our clients are extremely unhappy that they have had their wages reduced in this way.
“These long-serving employees are especially angry that they only found out about the decision when news was leaked to the national press in January 2016.
“They feel hurt, bewildered and frightened that this could happen again.”
“The decision to impose pay cuts on long-serving employees is a bitter pill for our clients to swallow and we believe it is discriminatory. There seems to be a growing trend amongst retailers to cut staff wages and use those savings across other areas of the business.
Leigh Day said it is also representing thousands of employees in discrimination claims against Asda and Sainsbury’s.