Tesco could axe 39,000 jobs over the next three years as boss Dave Lewis bids to transform the grocer’s fortunes, according to reports.

The supermarket giant, which employs more than 300,000 workers in the UK, cut thousands of jobs last year but invested in about 5,000 shopfloor staff in an attempt to rejuvenate ailing sales.

But the further potential job losses, which were revealed in a leaked document, would be the equivalent of chopping one in six employees, either by removing jobs or cutting hours.

Tesco confirmed the validity of the document but said it had modelled various scenarios. The retailer insisted it had no plans to announce any further job losses.

The proposals form part of a programme titled ‘Project Pace’, the document said. An extract was posted on Verylittlehelps.com – an online forum used by Tesco staff.

It said that the supermarket giant, which posted a pre-tax loss of £6.4bn last year, has modelled the impact of a £500m reduction in the amount it pays to its store staff, after the introduction of the national living wage.

To make that saving, the document said Tesco would need roughly 39,000 fewer workers in its stores within the next three years.

The document claimed that was the equivalent of one in six workers either losing their jobs or having their hours slashed.

However, it is estimated that about 45,000 staff leave Tesco every year through natural wastage, meaning the grocer could achieve the cuts without making redundancies if it simply opts not to replace employees that leave the business.

A Tesco spokesman said: “This is not a new programme of job losses, and we are not announcing one. We do not comment on rumours other than to say that we are transforming Tesco into an organisation that meets the needs of customers in a rapidly changing retail sector, and as such continue to plan accordingly.”

The document was leaked just weeks after Tesco’s big four rival Asda revealed it was axing up to 300 head office jobs and placed 5,000 in-store roles into consultation as it seeks to cut costs.

In contrast, the discounters continue to grow at a pace. Aldi is opening 80 new stores this year and will create 5,000 new jobs in the process.