The solicitors have applied for a tribunal hearing on behalf of 57 female former employees of 2 Sisters’ Haughley Park site in East Anglia, which was closed in November last year. In addition, a letter of formal grievance has been lodged with the UK food giant.
The workers argue the company paid them less than men in equivalent roles and could claim up to six years of backdated pay to make up the difference, Leigh Day told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
Despite the clients being low-paid workers, most had worked for 2 Sisters for more than six years, so could gain tens of thousands of pounds in compensation under the Equal Pay Act 1970. The total figure could amount to more than £1M, Leigh Day said.
In addition, Leigh Day solicitor Michael Newman said the firm had been in contact with staff at other 2 Sisters sites with similar complaints.
Newman said Leigh Day was waiting to see if the Haughley Park case was successful before considering taking up other cases. “If successful we have got other enquiries from other people at 2 Sisters – all equal pay claims.”
Newman said he was confident the Haughley Park case would be successful, but stressed it could take more than a year to resolve.
2 Sisters would have received notification of the tribunal claim at some point this week, said Newman. It would then have 28 days to respond.
Leigh Day was scheduled to hold a grievance meeting with 2 Sisters early next month, he said. He expected 2 Sisters to initially respond by rejecting the claim, as often happened in such cases.
Newman said it was unusual to represent such a large group of claimants outside of the public sector without strong union involvement. No such involvement had been the case with the Haughley Park site.
However, he added: “We have approached the unions, told them what we are doing and have said we are quite happy to work with them.”
A spokeswoman for 2 Sisters confirmed: “We have received a written grievance and are reviewing the contents. It is not appropriate to comment more at this stage.”
Leigh Day acted on the prompting of claims management firm Pay Justice, which had fielded the initial complaints from 2 Sisters workers.