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Next store staff win landmark equal pay battle

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Around 2,000 Next store staff have won their legal fight for equal pay with their warehouse counterparts, marking a legal milestone. 

An employment tribunal ruling determined three women, acting as lead claimants, found their work had equal value to male workers’ jobs in the warehouse. 

These women drew comparisons with the male warehouse employees as part of their case involving the current and former Next store staff.

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Leigh Day, the law firm representing the store staff, explained the ruling means “the burden now shifts to Next who must prove that although the work is equal there is a non-discriminatory reason allowing them to pay their sales consultants and warehouse staff differently.”

This victory, which has taken five years, marks the second of three stages in the legal process.

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Leigh Day highlighted that this case is the first of its kind to secure an equal value ruling in a national equal pay group claim. 

The law firm is also involved in similar cases representing 85,000 supermarket workers from Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, and Co-op, which are still in the early stages.

The Next case was initially launched in 2018, and the third stage hearing is expected to occur in March 2024. 

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If successful, store staff could receive the pay difference from warehouse operatives for up to six years from the start of their claims.

Additionally, contracts would be automatically adjusted to include equal terms in the future.

Elizabeth George, barrister, and partner at Leigh Day, expressed delight over the win, emphasizing its significance beyond the legal realm. 

She said: “We are delighted that our Next clients have won this crucial battle. It is a legal win, obviously, but it means a great deal more than that to the people bringing these claims.

“The sales consultants, overwhelmingly women, had been told by Next that their work is not as demanding as the warehouse operatives’ work and so does not attract equal pay and other benefits currently denied to them.

“The employment tribunal has found, unanimously, that the work is equal. The end is now in sight for the sales consultants after a battle lasting five years.”

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