Equality watchdog probe finds no unlawful acts of pay discrimination by the BBC 

An investigation by the equality watchdog has found no unlawful acts of pay discrimination by the BBC.

But the Equality and Human Rights Commission recommended improvements to rebuild trust with female employees and improve transparency.

Its report said the BBC accepts its historical practices were not fit for purpose and has made significant changes since 2015.

The investigation followed a string of high-profile complaints involving presenters like Samira Ahmed, Carrie Gracie and Sarah Montague. 

Investigators found inadequate record-keeping on how decisions about pay were made, leading to confusion and poor communication with women making complaints.

The interim chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission Caroline Waters said that while ‘no unlawful acts’ were found in the investigation, ‘repairing the damage caused by these issues requires continued leadership and we hope the BBC board takes forward our recommendations’.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has found no evidence of unlawful acts of pay discrimination by the BBC but has recommended steps to rebuild trust with female employees

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has found no evidence of unlawful acts of pay discrimination by the BBC but has recommended steps to rebuild trust with female employees

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has found no evidence of unlawful acts of pay discrimination by the BBC but has recommended steps to rebuild trust with female employees

She said: ‘It is easy to see why trust between some women at the BBC and the organisation has broken down.

‘Many women felt their voices were not being heard and have been left feeling confused as to how decisions about their pay have been made.

‘This took a heavy emotional toll on those involved in the process and the strength of feeling of women at the BBC should not be understated.

What does the law say about equal pay? 

The Equality Act 2010 says men and women performing equal work for the same employer must receive equal pay unless any discrepancy can be justified, according to the EHRC.

This relates to basic salaries, bonuses, overtime rates, severance and redundancy pay, pension schemes and benefits including travel allowances and company cars.

If it can be shown that a woman is being paid less than a male colleague, there is a legal presumption that any discrepancy is because of their sex.

Equal work applies to tasks that are the same or broadly similar, or roles that require similar levels of knowledge and skills.

Employers are expected to justify any discrepancies. 

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‘While we have not found any unlawful acts in our investigation, repairing the damage caused by these issues requires continued leadership and we hope the BBC board takes forward our recommendations.

‘The BBC accepts that change was needed and has made wide-ranging improvements.

‘Our recommendations will help it go much further to rebuild trust and increase transparency so the BBC does not leave itself open to the risk of pay discrimination in the future.

‘It is sad that we are still having to debate equal pay for equal work. Equal pay is the law and has been for 50 years.

‘Every employer should read this report and ask if they are doing all they can to reduce the risk of pay discrimination. If in doubt, take action now.’

The EHRC report has recommended the BBC ensures that ‘consideration of equal pay is fully recorded and explained to the complainant at every stage of the grievance process’ and that the BBC clearly sets out and adheres to ‘reasonable’ time limits when determining pay complaints.

It is also recommended the BBC continues to improve transparency when communicating with employees by giving reasons for the decisions made about their pay and recording them consistently so it is clear why and when an employee’s pay has been decided.

The report found the BBC has been ‘slow’ to resolve complaints, adding ‘its use of independent experts did not meet the level of independence and objectivity that some staff had expected’.

It added: ‘Grievance processes can be stressful in any organisation.

‘During the investigation, we heard from some women who told us the stress and anxiety brought about by the grievance process had a damaging effect on their health.’ 

The BBC's Director-general Tim Davie, pictured, has said he welcomes the report and admits there is still more work to be done before the corporation can consider itself 'best in class'

The BBC's Director-general Tim Davie, pictured, has said he welcomes the report and admits there is still more work to be done before the corporation can consider itself 'best in class'

The BBC’s Director-general Tim Davie, pictured, has said he welcomes the report and admits there is still more work to be done before the corporation can consider itself ‘best in class’

The commission launched an investigation into equal pay at the BBC in March last year.

The watchdog said it suspected that some female BBC employees ‘have not received equal pay for equal work’.

It examined whether men and women are paid the same salary for the same job, saying it has ‘been a legal requirement for almost 50 years’.

The investigation looked at the period from January 1 2016, covering formal and informal pay complaints.

The BBC says it has since gone ‘through a period of significant reform’ in recent years.

Its new director general Tim Davie recently told MPs that there were 20 gender discrimination cases outstanding at the BBC.

In response to the report, Mr Davie, said: ‘We have to work even harder to be best in class.

‘Trust is vitally important and as an organisation that serves the public, the BBC must continue to lead the way on pay transparency and fairness.

‘We are committed to building a truly inclusive culture.

‘We agree with the Commission that we should continue to deliver on our reform programme which began in 2015. We accept every one of their recommendations and will implement them.’

During its investigation the EHRC asked the BBC for its files relating to 40 pay cases raised by staff, which was not intended to be representative of BBC jobs as a whole and included a higher proportion of cases in on-air roles.

The report said: ‘In the cases we analysed, the BBC explained many of its pay decisions by referring to factors such as ‘profile’, ‘experience’, ‘audience recognition’ ‘market power’ and ‘flight risk’.

‘These factors can lawfully be relied upon to justify pay differences and we accepted that the factors explained the pay differences between men and women in these cases.

‘However, there is a risk that such factors will be judged subjectively or that they conceal stereotypical assumptions about the value of both men and women and their work.’

The EHRC report said: ‘Our analysis of the 40 complaint files shows that, as a result of historically decentralised pay systems and managerial discretion, it was not evident that BBC managers and HR staff had assessed factors objectively when they were considering individuals’ pay.

‘For example, in one case the BBC said that audience recognition explained the pay difference between a woman and her comparator, but there was no evidence in the grievance file that this factor had been taken into account at the time when either salary was set.

‘However, the BBC later provided us with evidence confirming that audience recognition was taken into account when making the pay decision.’

In January, Newswatch presenter Samira Ahmed (centre) won a sex discrimination equal pay claim against the BBC while Carrie Gracie (right) stepped down as China Editor in January 2018 after discovering her male counterparts were earning considerably more than she was

In January, Newswatch presenter Samira Ahmed (centre) won a sex discrimination equal pay claim against the BBC while Carrie Gracie (right) stepped down as China Editor in January 2018 after discovering her male counterparts were earning considerably more than she was

In January, Newswatch presenter Samira Ahmed (centre) won a sex discrimination equal pay claim against the BBC while Carrie Gracie (right) stepped down as China Editor in January 2018 after discovering her male counterparts were earning considerably more than she was

Who are the BBC’s top female earners this year?

The BBC has been trying to level up the pay of male and female stars to repair damage to the corporation’s reputation and reduce discord among staff. 

When salary details were published this year, four of the top ten earners were women for the first time in the corporation’s history.

Radio 2 presenter Zoe Ball took the top spot at £1.3m while other women featured in the top ten included Fiona Bruce, Vanessa Feltz and Lauren Laverne.

The gender ratio of presenters earning more than £150,000 is now 55:45 in favour of men, a shift from 75:25 in 2017. 

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The furore was sparked when the organisation published, in 2017, the salaries of its highest earners, those who earned more than £150,000.

The list revealed that only two of the top 14 employees were women while men made up two thirds of the overall list.

In January, Newswatch presenter Samira Ahmed won a sex discrimination equal pay claim against the BBC after.

Ahmed argued that Jeremy Vine was being paid six times her salary for very similar work on Points of View.

The previous year, radio presenter Sarah Montague won a £400,000 settlement and an apology from the broadcaster over unequal treatment.

Sarah Montague discovered in 2018 that she was being paid less than her colleagues for the same work on the World at One programme.

Carrie Gracie resigned from her position as China editor in 2018 in protest at pay inequalities at the broadcaster after discovering she was being paid less than other international editors.

The top earners list published in 2017 revealed US editor Jon Sopel earned between £200,000 and £249,999 while Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen earned between £150,000 and £199,999.

Meanwhile, Gracie was not listed meaning her salary was less than £150,000. 

Ms Gracie said she was dismayed to discover the BBC’s two male international editors earned ‘at least 50% more’ than its two female counterparts. 

She was eventually given a full apology by the corporation and received back pay, which she donated to a women’s equality charity.

According to the BBC, Director General Tim Davie told MPs in September, that eight outstanding equal pay cases were still going through the tribunal process, another 10 were going through the BBC’s own formal procedure and two informal complaints were also unresolved. 

Latest BBC figures on the broadcaster’s best-paid stars make Zoe Ball the top earning talent – as Gary Lineker is taking a pay cut.

Radio 2 presenter Ball, 49, is now earning £1.36million despite losing nearly a million listeners after the corporation pledged to tackle the gender pay gap. 

Fiona Bruce, Vanessa Feltz and Lauren Laverne are also in the top 10.

The report’s findings have been welcomed by broadcasting and journalism unions. 

Philippa Childs, head of Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (Bectu), said: ‘Bectu welcomes the publication of the EHRC report into historical pay inequality at the BBC.

‘We urge the broadcaster to implement the recommendations in full and recognise the stress and anxiety that fighting for equal pay has on impacted individuals.

‘This report highlights the importance of transparency in pay and terms and conditions, and it is noteworthy that the biggest and most frequently reported pay gaps are to be found outside of trade union collective bargaining areas.

‘Bectu and other unions have worked extremely hard with the BBC in recent years to conduct a thorough review of terms and conditions, and to introduce a clear and more consistently applied reward structure. 

‘However, we are not complacent and recognise that more work needs to be done. We continue to monitor this situation forensically and to support Bectu members in bringing individual pay cases.

‘There are lessons in this report for all broadcasters, many of which have a higher gender pay gap than that found at the BBC and continue to retain opaque pay structures.

‘Bectu calls on those broadcasters to work with staff, Bectu and other trade unions to implement similar recommendations in their organisations.

‘While it is right that the BBC faces greater scrutiny, it is certainly true that the BBC is more transparent than others because it is publicly funded.’

BBC pay cases that hit the headlines: How Carrie Gracie, Sarah Montague and Samira Ahmed brought cases over pay discrimination at the corporation 

 Carrie Gracie

Carrie Gracie resigned from her position as China editor in January 2018 in protest at pay inequalities.

She was eventually given a full apology by the corporation, and back pay.

The journalist donated the money to gender equality charity The Fawcett Society, to set up a fund for women who need legal advice on equal pay claims.

Gracie told MPs that the corporation treated women who spoke out about pay disparity as ‘the enemy’.

In the summer, she left the BBC completely, saying that, after 33 years, it was ‘time to do something new’.

Sarah Montague

Broadcaster Sarah Montague confirmed in January that she had won a £400,000 settlement and an apology from the BBC over unequal treatment.

Montague, who previously presented BBC Radio 4’s Today programme alongside veteran journalist John Humphrys, said the deal came after a ‘long period of stressful negotiations’ which was triggered after discovering a disparity in her pay and conditions.

She accepted it after being warned that a battle to try to repair the situation could ‘run into the millions’.

Montague, who now presents the World At One on Radio 4, wrote on Twitter: ‘I chose not to seek such sums from the BBC but I did want some recognition that they had underpaid me.

‘Last year, after a long period of stressful negotiation, I accepted a settlement of £400,000 subject to tax, and an apology from the BBC for paying me unequally for so many years.’

Before the settlement, she said she was ‘incandescent with rage’ and ‘felt a sap’ when she learned that she was being paid far less than her Today programme co-stars.

Samira Ahmed

In January, Newswatch presenter Samira Ahmed won a sex discrimination equal pay claim against the BBC after taking her case to an employment tribunal.

She questioned why she was paid £465 per episode of Newswatch while Jeremy Vine was paid up to £3,000 for each episode of Points Of View, work she described as comparable.

The corporation had argued that Newswatch was a ‘relatively niche’ programme which aired on the BBC News channel, while Points Of View is ‘extremely well-known’.

The unanimous judgment said Ahmed’s work was like that done by Vine, and the BBC had failed to prove the pay gap was not because of sex discrimination.

Ahmed and the BBC later reached a settlement.

Ahmed said after winning her claim that ‘no woman wants to have to take action against their own employer.

‘I love working for the BBC. I’m glad it’s been resolved.’

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