Next could be facing a claim for up to £30m in back pay from thousands of mainly female shop-floor staff, who claim they are paid less than their mostly male warehouse colleagues.
More than 300 workers have initially signed up to participate in a claim that was filed at the conciliation service Acas on Wednesday.
It has been estimated that the average salary loss for the group amounts to around £6,000. However, it is anticipated that between 3,000 and 5,000 workers will ultimately register to the group legal action, which could result in a claim totalling £30m.
Lawyers representing Next’s claimants believe the predominantly female store staff receive on average 24% less than their colleagues at the warehouses.
Elizabeth George, head of employment at law firm Pattinson & Brewer, which is representing the claimants, believed the claim marks the first made outside of the large supermarket retailers.
“[When] you look across every work sector, you will see work, that is traditionally viewed as women’s work, being undervalued,” she adds.
“The physical and mental demands on the shop floor are no less than those in the warehouses. The only thing of less substance is the minimum wage being given to our clients.”
Next said it had not been notified by Acas and was currently unaware of any claims against it.
A spokesman for Next said: “The difference between working in a warehouse and a store at Next is, however, more significant than for any of the food retailers now involved in litigation.
“Next values all its employees, regardless of their gender, role and place of work within the business. Next is also confident that all its employees are paid legally, fairly and appropriately for the jobs they perform.”
Next employs around 45,000 people in the UK, 30,000 of whom are shop-floor staff.