By Jonathan Davies

Sainsbury's is facing legal action over accusations that it does not pay equal wages for female shopfloor workers.

Four female employees claim they are not paid as much as male colleagues for the same, or equivalent, work.

A similar case against Asda is still ongoing, however, 6,000 female workers are involved.

Law firm Leigh Day, which is handling both cases, says thousands more female Sainsbury's workers could join the case.

The case hinges on whether or not shopfloor jobs, which are dominated by female workers, are of equal value to higher-paid jobs in male-dominated distribution centres.

The Sainsbury's workers could be entitled to up to six year's back-pay, if they win the case.

Michael Newman, a discrimination and employment law expert at Leigh Day, said a similar case was brought against Sainsbury's in 1989. In that instance, shopfloor jobs and distribution centre roles were consistent, resulting in equal pay.

Mr Newman said: “This is an important case, given the amount of time equal pay legislation has been in force and the gender pay gap still exists. Sainsbury’s had a judgment against them in the 1980s and they appear not to have learned from that.

“We know supermarkets all compete on the price of a loaf of bread. It’s shocking that they are competing in terms of bad practice in terms of paying female staff.”

Sainsbury’s said: “We are aware of a very small number of claims in this case. We pride ourselves on being a fair employer and do not recognise discrimination of any kind in our business.”