The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has handed out a judgment in favour of over 50,000 Tesco workers on their equal pay claim, holding that the workers can rely on European law over domestic law. This case was taken to the CJEU before the UK left the EU. Now, due to Brexit, it is unclear how far this judgment will be binding on Tesco.
The workers’ question for the CJEU was whether the provision under EU law, which states that workers can be compared with “somebody working in a different establishment if a single source has the power to correct the difference in pay”, can be applied to organisations in the UK. To this the CJEU stated that: “Tesco stores appears to constitute, in its capacity as employer, a single source to which the pay conditions of the workers performing their work in its stores and distribution centres may be attributed.”
Similarly to the Asda equal pay case, it is quite a rare occurrence that a preliminary issue such as this one reaches the higher stages within a tribunal appeals process, and more so an EU court. This matter, however, is one of extreme importance to the employee because a failure at this stage may have led to the entire equal pay claim failing at the first hurdle.
There are, however, still further stages that the workers need to successfully navigate. They will first be required to show that they were carrying out “work of equal value” in comparison to workers at the distribution centre, to which Tesco can argue that they have a material factor defence to justify any pay variances. With mass equal pay claims against all four large UK supermarkets, this is a case that will have ground-breaking repercussions.
Equal pay – overview and in-depth