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Next store workers one step closer to equal pay

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Written by: Emma Lunn
06/08/2021
Store workers employed by Next have claimed victory in the first stage of their equal pay battle.

The retail giant was forced to concede that workers in Next shops can compare their roles to that of colleagues in distribution centres and warehouses.

Currently more than 400 Next workers, represented by law firm Leigh Day, have brought equal pay claims against the company arguing that their work is as demanding as distribution centre and warehouse roles.

Comparability is the first stage in a three-step process for equal pay claims. Next will now have to show that the roles are not of equal value, or if they are, that there is a reason, other than gender, as to why the roles are not paid equally. The equal value part of the claim is already underway.

Next store staff, 86% of whom are women, earn on average between £2 and £6 less per hour than distribution centre workers.

Next employs 25,000 store staff across 500 stores in the UK and Ireland. If all eligible staff joined the claim, the potential cost to the retail giant could reach £100m.

Leigh Day says the decision by Next to concede the comparability argument is the most recent in a series of comparability milestones for group equal pay claims.

Last month, thousands of Tesco shop floor workers won a legal argument in their fight for equal pay when the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that the ‘single source’ test applies to businesses in the UK.

This means a worker can compare their role with somebody working in a different establishment if a ‘single source’ has the power to correct the difference in pay.

The CJEU ruling follows a landmark judgment handed down by the Supreme Court in March 2021 which ruled that Asda shop floor workers can compare their roles to those of their colleagues in distribution centres for the purposes of equal pay. Leigh Day also represents clients from Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and the Co-op in similar equal pay cases.

Elizabeth George, a barrister at Leigh Day, said: “This is very welcome news for all the hardworking Next store staff involved in this claim. They can now move forward, and the employment tribunal can focus on the question that is the crux of these claims: is store work of equal value to the work in the warehouses? I believe the answer should, and will be, an emphatic yes, but only time will tell.”

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