Tesco is axing hundreds of deputy manager positions and thousands of team manager positions in its stores - but vowed the huge shake-up would result in more staff on the front line.

Staff at all Tesco’s larger stores were this week informed of the changes, which the retailer claimed would streamline management structures and improve service and availability.

Under the changes, deputy managers at all stores have been removed, and replaced by a new rotating duty system of lead managers from areas across fresh food, grocery, GM and nights, with the number based on the amount of staff at the store.

Meanwhile, team leaders across virtually all of Tesco’s larger stores have been given a choice of accepting a buyout payment and dropping to a lower pay level as general assistants, or taking redundancy, with negotiations starting on Monday.

Tesco also revealed some line managers were being displaced by a merger of departments in-store, which could see other staff given redundancy. However, retail director Tony Hoggett said on top of the extra 6,000 staff brought into stores in the autumn, Tesco was looking to increase its workforce ­in-store further.

“For a lot of our colleagues it is a very, very uncertain time,” he said. “But this is absolutely not about redundancies and taking heads out. This is about realigning service. We have sat down with thousands of people this week and very few issues have not been resolved.”

Hoggett said removing deputy managers would allow responsibilities to be spread more widely across stores. “There has been a big overreliance on two people to manage the store,” he said. “This means there will be anything between two to five senior managers who will be able to take responsibility.”

He added the decision to axe team leaders, following a trial launched in 12 Tesco stores in the East Midlands last year, was to improve service and availability. He vowed that every team leader had a job to go to.

Despite the drop in pay, Hoggett claimed staff had shown a good understanding of the rationale behind the changes.

“We haven’t had anyone who isn’t aware of the big picture. I have no idea how many people will end up taking redundancy but in the trials it was very few. We want to keep everyone.”