14 AUGUST 2018

A former executive at the Co-operative Group claims she was sacked after raising an equal pay claim and warning that the company could be paying men and women differently for the same roles.

Ex-HR director Sam Walker has brought a claim of equal pay, discrimination and unfair dismissal against the Co-op, which will be heard over the next two weeks.

Fawcett Society Chief Executive Sam Smethers says:

"Fawcett Society stands shoulder to shoulder with Sam Walker in her fight for equal pay. But it has required exceptional commitment and resources from her.

"Women repeatedly suspect they are undervalued and underpaid. This is illegal but it is often impossible for individuals to challenge without comparative pay data. The system needs reform to provide real transprency and impose time limits on equal pay cases, which can drag on for years. Otherwise it will continue to operate in favour of employers."

In her witness statement, Sam Walker said she first raised questions about equal pay in 2015 after comparing her salary to other male executives who sat alongside her on the board. She was sacked the following year.

She said she was “not treated equally in terms of pay with two male colleagues in the Co-op’s executive team and that I was victimised and discriminated (and ultimately dismissed) when I raised concerns about this”.

She added: “However, I do not see my case simply as being about my own position. Equal pay for women generally is a matter of real importance and concern to me. I am an active member of the Fawcett Society, and am committed to the promotion of transparency and fairness for women at work.”

A Co-op spokesman said: “We do not accept that Sam Walker was discriminated against or treated detrimentally, and intend to fully and robustly defend the various claims brought by Sam.”