Tesco Accused Of Pay Discrimination By Workers

Seventeen Tesco employees are taking legal action against the supermarket giant on grounds that the corporation has committed pay discrimination by reducing the pay of workers contracted to work unconventional shifts, such as weekends, bank holidays and nights. This change began in February 2016 following the introduction of a new pay deal that was arranged for Tesco workers based on an agreement with the Shopworkers Trade Union’.

This means that since last July workers of unconventional hours are no longer eligible for the double-time pay they are long accustomed to. The seventeen claimants are all long-term workers employed by the retailer since at least the late 1990s.

The new pay deal of last February provides new benefits for Tesco workers, with a 3.1% pay-rise existing for all employees. Such an alteration means that the average Tesco wage is now £7.62; a change that makes the business one of the most financially lucrative employers in the retail industry.

As many as thirty-eight thousand workers are believed to have seen their pay affected in some way since the change; a figure that Tesco disputes. Although the higher number of Tesco workers with more recent contracts will benefit from the alteration, the issue is that long-serving employees will experience a decrease for this to happen.

Many of them have based their lifestyle and work arrangements to maintain the expectations of their existing pay and a change to this system could bring hardships to these workers, thus causing workplace discrimination. Others simply feel they have earned their favourable pay arrangements due to the long service they have provided, and that their loyalty and dedication is disregarded as a result.

Tesco believes the changes made are fully justified as they were arranged with the involvement of the shopworkers’ trade union. A spokesman for the company released the following statement in response to the recent legal action:

“Earlier this year we announced a pay increase of up to 3.1% for colleagues working in our stores across the UK, in addition to a 5% turnaround bonus. As part of the pay negotiations we also agreed to simplify premium payments to ensure a fair and consistent approach for all colleagues. The minority of colleagues who were negatively impacted by this change were supported with an agreed lump sum transition payment.”

Legal action from employees over fair pay is a burning issue in retail employment right now. Marks & Spencer is currently undergoing a similar form of legal action to Tesco from its employees after the company was accused of causing a reduction in the wages of shop-floor staff who work anti-social hours.

Tattoo Discrimination: Forcing Employees To Cover Up

In modern Britain body art is largely viewed as part of mainstream fashion and a lifestyle choice people of all backgrounds choose. The days of tattoos being confined to specific subcultures have long since past. It’s now believed that that 20% of Britons have a tattoo.

However, despite this change in attitude, many employers still have a negative view of body art and prefer their employees to cover up tattoos where possible. Other employers will simply not hire someone with tattoos. This has resulted in a lot of skilled workers, usually of the younger generation, missing out on the employment opportunities they could otherwise achieve.

Margaret Mountford, the revered lawyer and businesswoman known for her appearances on The Apprentice, views employer attitudes towards body art as “a real problem” for young people. This concern is supported by the sheer number of younger people with tattoos, which is now a third of Britons aged below 30.

The exact nature of this employer concern is rooted in the belief that body art is somehow unruly and people with tattoos are somehow less responsible, which in turn reflects badly on a company’s image and shakes client faith in the brand, leading many businesses to request their employees wear clothing concealing their body art.

Employer advice group Acas is currently campaigning to encourage firms to reassess their view of body art and the employee dress codes involved, as well as encouraging employer and employees alike to consider whether forcing body art to be covered is actually a form of workplace discrimination.

Stephen Williams, the Head of Equality at Acas, recognises employer concern over tattoos but feels a fair balance for what is deemed acceptable needs to be undertaken: “Businesses are perfectly within their right to have rules around appearance at work but these rules should be based on the law where appropriate, and the needs of the business, not managers’ personal preferences.”

Williams also believes businesses experience a loss when skilled staff with tattoos are not employed as a result of this so called ‘ink discrimination‘: “A dress code that restricts people with tattoos might mean companies are missing out on talented workers.”

A dismissive attitude towards tattoos in the workplace is by no means a recent occurrence, but it is only now coming under the microscope due to so many British citizens embracing body art and a number of well publicised employment law cases. In 2015 a trainee was sent home on her first day of work because the Catholic School she was teaching at objected to her tattoos.

Many may agree that such employer attitudes are justified if the tattoos in question are an example of extreme body art, but there have been cases where an overreaction is abundantly clear, such as when a business consultant was recently dismissed from her job for having a butterfly tattoo measuring 4cm on her foot.

If tattoos are to be considered a personal form of self-expression, any effort to censor them in the workplace may actually be an act of discrimination. However, this stance leads to further questions of whether there are certain types of tattoos that should be acceptable over others. Is it okay if controversial phrases or symbols are allowed to be displayed if an employee believes in them? Examples of this could include imagery of religious significance to an individual. But what happens if such potentially conversational expression then causes offence to other workers?

Should tattoos perhaps be considered a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010? The rules on body modification as a characteristic are not clearly defined, but if a single set of rules were enforced for all businesses there would certainly be some industries seeking stricter criteria while others prefer a more relaxed approach. A lot of discussion on the subject is yet needed.