Pay matters

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Pay matters

There’s good news and bad news about pay this week as Amazon is increasing the minimum wage that it pays to its staff whilst Tesco is facing an equal pay claim from some of theirs.

As a consumer, Amazon feels almost robotic in terms of the shopping experience and the sheer efficiency that enables it to deliver your purchases right to your door by the next day, or even the same day in some areas. Behind that of course is a vast army of staff, some 25,000 and growing, and a large proportion of them work within the company’s huge distribution sites at key locations across the country.

That workforce also rises as the festive season approaches, with Amazon hiring temporary staff to cover the increased workload as customers start buying Christmas presents. Perhaps with this in mind, and with the prospect of Brexit looming, Amazon has decided to flex its global muscle (and perhaps used some of the spare cash from its much criticised approach to paying tax) and has decided to increase the minimum wage it pays to its staff.

Up until now, the minimum wage offered at Amazon was £8 per hour (£8.50 in London) but it has just announced it is increasing this to £9.50 per hour (£10.50 in London), higher than the hourly minimum wage recommended by the Living Wage Foundation. This increase applies to all permanent, temporary and agency staff.

It sounds like great news for its workforce but the GMB trade union is critical of Amazon for its working conditions, with a recent disclosure revealing that 600 ambulances have been called to Amazon distribution centres in the past three years. The GMB claims that Amazon treats its staff “like robots”, makes them walk for miles around its huge distribution centres, and places overly harsh targets on them, such as picking items to unrealistic timescales, which is leading to unsafe working practices, claims that Amazon denies.

Either way, this news is likely to help Amazon with its recruitment strategy both ahead of the Christmas period and beyond.

On the other side of the coin is Tesco, facing an equal pay claim from 8,000 members of its shop floor staff. The legal firm, Harcus Sinclair, and the campaign group, Pay Justice, have founded the Tesco Action Group to take the claim forward.

Their argument is that the predominantly male staff working in Tesco’s warehouses and distribution centres are receiving a higher salary than the predominantly female shop floor staff and that the type of work they do, such as working on the tills, loading and moving cages, and replenishing stock, is comparable in terms of effort, skill and decision-making to that of the male warehouse workers.

It is estimated that, if successful, employees of Tesco could receive around £5,000 each in compensation depending upon their working hours and length of service, so it’s not loose change to Tesco if it loses out.

However, whilst Tesco has the financial clout to be able to defend or even settle a claim, and Amazon is able to increase its workforce whilst offering higher basic rates of pay than its competitors, not all companies have that luxury.

The message we can take away from these two news stories is that it’s important to ensure that your health, safety and wellbeing practices are beyond reproach, and to monitor any gender pay imbalance, especially in roles that could be considered to be comparable.