Shop floor workers employed by Sainsbury’s are one step closer to equal pay after the supermarket conceded that they can compare their roles to that of colleagues in distribution centres.

More than 3,700 Sainsbury’s workers, represented by law firm Leigh Day, have brought equal value claims against the company arguing that their work is as demanding as distribution centre roles.

Comparability is the first stage in a three-step legal process for equal pay claims. Sainsbury’s will now have to show that the roles are not of equal value or that there is a genuine reason for the pay difference which is not based on gender.

The difference in hourly pay for shop floor workers and those in a distribution centre can range between £1.50 to £4 an hour, which could mean a disparity in pay of many thousands of pounds.

This concession by Sainsbury’s is the most recent in a series of comparability milestones for equal pay claims against top supermarkets in the UK.

In June thousands of Tesco shop floor workers, also represented by Leigh Day, won a legal argument in their fight for equal pay when the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that the ‘single source’ test applies to businesses in the UK.

This means a worker can compare their role with somebody working in a different establishment if a ‘single source’ has the power to correct the difference in pay.

The CJEU ruling follows a landmark judgment handed down by the Supreme Court which confirmed that Asda shop floor workers can compare their roles to those of their colleagues in distribution centres for the purposes of equal pay.

Leigh Day also represents clients from Morrisons and the Co-op in similar equal pay cases.

Mike Keenan, a solicitor in the employment team at Leigh Day, said: “This is a huge milestone for Sainsbury’s shop floor workers and truly something to celebrate.

“Now that Sainsbury’s finally agrees shop floor workers compare their roles to workers in distribution centres, we can focus on what’s at the heart of these claims: whether the work is of equal value.”