Leigh day reacts to Tesco cleaning staff cuts

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‘It’s an unusual way to say thank you’ – Leigh day reacts to Tesco cleaning staff cuts

At the end of last month, it was revealed that Tesco staff in nearly 2,000 stores will be required to take on cleaning duties. Here, Lara Kennedy, a solicitor working on the Tesco Equal Pay claim, reflects on the impact of this decision.

For years, Leigh Day has been acting on behalf of store workers, most of whom are women, and who we claim are paid unfairly in comparison to their predominantly male distribution centre colleagues.

We believe this is because retail work is typically seen as ‘women’s work’, which is historically low paid.

But in our eyes, the jobs in stores and distribution centres are of equal value and that the pay rates should reflect this. This isn’t something we should have to fight for, but that’s exactly what we are having to do.

So, the news that from the 24th August, employees in Tesco Express and Metro stores will be expected to undertake cleaning duties is a stark reminder that these staff are undervalued, overlooked and vulnerable to stereotypical assumptions.

Adding cleaning, a task often characterised as women’s work, to the duties of a female dominated role, reinforces the belief that retail work is ‘women’s work’. We say this because, to our knowledge, there is no plan to implement similar measures in the male dominated distribution centres.

The decision to stop using professional contract cleaners in Express and Metro stores is an odd one, coming as it does at a time for greater hygiene measures.

This is a matter of health and safety and should not be seen as an opportunity to reduce costs. The decision is particularly galling when it has been widely reported that supermarket sales have been at a record high during Coronavirus.

We hear first-hand from our clients, how physically and emotionally demanding retail work already is, and this is an added pressure that staff shouldn’t have to meet.

It wasn’t all that long ago, back when the pandemic first started, that supermarket workers were recognised as key workers they truly are, when all of us really saw the true value of the work they do.

Adding cleaning floors, windows, shelves and fridges to their already full list of tasks is an unusual way to say thank you.

Instead of having more work piled on top of them, store workers should be given the recognition, respect and pay they deserve, and we’ll continue fighting until they do.

If you would like to discuss how this decision has affected your role, please contact us.

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