'This is the next step, we are finally making progress' says Kiran Daurka, a partner at the firm representing shop floor workers
Thousands of current and former Tesco workers have won the latest round in their equal pay legal fight, which could have major implications for female workers.
Around 6,000 employees or former employees of Tesco took the supermarket company to court, arguing shop workers (mostly female) had not received equal pay for equal work compared with (mostly male) distribution workers dating back to 2018.
EU judges sided with staff after a UK tribunal sought guidance from the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, but the full case could take years to conclude.
The ruling is likely to have wide-reaching impact for thousands of other staff working in the retail sector after a similar row at Asda that saw 40,000 Asda workers win their equal pay case.
Staff argued the retail giant should be seen as a single entity in terms of employment conditions.
Supermarket bosses argued an EU law defining equal pay for equal work, or work of equal value, was not directly applicable in this case.
"The principle, laid down by EU law, of equal pay for male and female workers can be relied upon directly, in respect both of 'equal work' and of 'work of equal value', in proceedings between individuals," CJEU judges said.
The court said it had jurisdiction over the case in accordance with Britain's withdrawal deal with the EU.
Law firm Leigh Day represents more than 50,000 supermarket shop-floor workers, most of whom are women, who claim they are paid unfairly.
Kiran Daurka, a partner at the firm, said: "This judgment reinforces the Supreme Court’s ruling that the roles of shop-floor workers can be compared to those of their colleagues in distribution centres for the purposes of equal pay.
"For a long time, employers have argued that UK law in this area is unclear, but this judgment is simple: if there is a single body responsible for ensuring equality, the roles are comparable.
She continued: "This means that employers can no longer hide behind the grey areas of UK law."
A Tesco spokesperson said: "The jobs in our stores and distribution centres are different. These roles require different skills and demands which lead to variations in pay – but this has absolutely nothing to do with gender.
"We reward our colleagues fairly for the jobs they do and work hard to ensure that the pay and benefits we offer are fair, competitive and sustainable.
"These claims are extremely complex and will take many years to reach a conclusion. We continue to strongly defend these claims."