In the latest private sector equal pay claim, an employment tribunal has ruled that Morrisons shop floor workers can compare themselves with the supermarket's warehouse staff. 

The legislation

    In terms of the Equality Act 2010, to bring an equal pay claim an individual must be able to identify a more highly paid comparator of the opposite sex performing equal work at either:

    • The same establishment; or
    • A different establishment where common (i.e. broadly similar) terms and conditions apply, either generally or between the individual and their comparator.

    The claim

    Predominately female retail staff at Morrisons typically earn £1 to £2 less per hour than predominantly male staff working in the depots. A group of these female workers are trying to secure equal pay with the depot workers which, if successful, could result in a back payment of wages from the last 6 years. To do so they first needed to be able to use the depot staff as comparators for their claim.

    The decision

    The decision has not yet been published but it's been reported that Leeds employment tribunal has ruled that Morrison's shop floor workers can rely on the supermarket's warehouse staff as comparators for their equal pay claim.

    Morrisons argued that, as each of the distribution centres has individual collectively bargained terms and conditions, workers from one centre could not compare themselves with workers from another centre in the group. They further tried to argue that their retail and distribution workers are not employed by the same source.

    Both of the arguments failed. The employment judge found that the distribution workers would have been employed on substantially the same terms if they had been employed on the same site as the retail workers and that, therefore, they were appropriate comparators.


    This is only the initial stage in the equal pay proceedings, but it is significant that the preliminary hurdle of finding comparators has been overcome and that the claim will be allowed to proceed. The floor staff will now have to show that their roles are of equal value with the warehouse staff and that there is no reason other than sex discrimination that the roles are not paid the same.

    25,000 workers could be eligible (including those who have left the supermarket in the last 6 years) – it's being reported that the claim is worth a potential £100 million.

    This is the latest in the development of equal pay claims in the private sector following a similar claim against Asda decided in March this year by the Supreme Court. Then in June the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Tesco shop workers could rely directly on European law to compare themselves to distribution centre workers because there was a 'single source' responsible for setting their pay. There are also other outstanding actions against Sainsbury's and Next. 

    Employers, particularly in retail, should pay close attention to how these claims develop and consider the potential impact of any future equal pay decisions.

    More information

    For more information please contact a member of our Employment and Immigration team

    Workbox by Brodies subscribers can also find helpful guidance on our Equal Pay pages, which cover the key things employers need to know from FAQs on what equal pay means, to guidance on who can bring an equal pay claim and when.