Next facing £30m claim from shop assistants over equal pay dispute

More than 300 shop floor staff at Next have filed a claim for £30m because of an equal pay dispute.

The fashion retailer, who has a staff of predominantly women, has paid them on average 24% less than male employees working in their Next warehouse.

According to law firm Pattison& Brewer, who filed the case with Acas, the claimants suggested that shop-floor work was comparable to warehouse work, and employees working in both sections should be paid the same wages.

The Guardian noted that shop assistants were paid an average of £2 less per hour than warehouse workers.

The average salary loss for shop assistants was about £6,000 per annum, and they predicted that between 3,000 and 5,000 workers would sign up for the joint claim, which would bring the total up to around £30m.

The law firm stated that employees who had left the company within the past six months would be eligible to make a claim along with present employees. If they win the claim, Next may be liable to pay staff up to six years of back pay.

Elizabeth George, head of the team at Pattison & Brewer stated that the claim was straightforward, with staff who were doing the same type of work being eligible for the same pay.

Unfortunately, across every work sector, one finds that work which is traditionally viewed as ‘women’s work’ is undervalued and underpaid.

It is up to Next as to how they deal with the pay claim dispute, says George. They could choose to spend years (like Asda) fighting the claims, or they could accept and take a progressive approach and work together to correct the problem.

George went on to say that the work done on the shop floor demanded both physical and mental tasks and were no less important than that of the warehouse. The only difference was that some were paid the minimum wage, while others were paid a higher rate.

A spokesperson for Next commented that they had not been notified by Acas about the claim and were unaware of any claims being made against them. Next values all their employees, regardless of role, place of work, or gender. Next also stated that all its employees are paid fairly and appropriately for the jobs they perform.

This Next claim dispute follows a similar claim made by workers at Tesco, where they are demanding up to £4bm to be backdated to them. Sainsbury’s and Asda are also dealing with pay dispute claims.

Almost 20,000 employees are involved in the claim against Asda, where the latest ruling agreed with the shopworkers’ right to compare wages to men in distribution centres. Asda plans to appeal the ruling.

Almost 1,000 employees are involved in the claim against Sainsburys.

The supermarket chain Morrisons is also facing a potential claim with lawyers gathering over 200 names of disgruntled employees who intend to approach Acas in the near future.

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