BBC conducts equal pay audit across UK-based staff

BBC

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is conducting an equal pay audit across its UK-based staff as part of a range of measures to ensure fair pair at the organisation.

The equal pay audit, which is being carried out independently by law firm Eversheds and professional services organisation PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), is looking at areas such as job families and like-for-like work to identify whether any pay disparities found at the organisation are justified.

The audit forms part of a multi-pronged approach to tackle issues around fairness and pay at the organisation following the July 2017 publication of pay data for individuals who are paid more than £150,000 from license fee revenue in each financial year. The organisation is required to publish this information on an annual basis under the terms of its Royal Charter.

The pay disclosures report showed that presenter Chris Evans is the highest paid on-air talent at the BBC, earning between £2,200,000 and £2,249,999, while presenters Claudia Winkleman and Alex Jones are the highest paid women, earning £450,000-£499,999 and £400,000-£449,999, respectively.

Following the report’s publication, an open letter signed by 44 female BBC employees requested that the organisation’s gender pay gap be acted upon now, rather than by 2020, which is the deadline the BBC has set for closing the gap and for achieving a 50-50 split between men and women for all lead and presenting roles. In response to this, Tony Hall, director general at the BBC, confirmed in July 2017 that the BBC would hold wider consultation meetings with employees to support changes designed to address its 10% gender pay gap.

Hall announced the further measures that the BBC is taking during a speech to staff on Wednesday 6 September 2017.

In addition to the equal pay audit, the BBC has commissioned a report on its gender pay gap, which will be independently audited. The equal pay audit report and the gender pay gap report will both be published upon completion, with the organisation committing to take any action required to rectify issues that are uncovered.

The BBC will also review its approach to on-air presenters, editors, and correspondents to examine both pay and representation in this area, and it has launched an employee consultation to gather feedback from staff.

Hall said: “This is just the start. There are more things on the table, from the way we recruit, to the way we promote, to the way [employees] can raise questions. And I’ll have more to say in the coming weeks and months.

“These are difficult and often deep-rooted challenges. And they are not unique to the BBC. But I see this as a moment of real opportunity for us. I’m determined that the BBC should lead the way; on gender, diversity, and equality.”

Female employees at the BBC responded to the announcement via #BBCwomen, with presenters such as Clare Balding and Ritula Shah sharing the comment: “The director general must be in no doubt about how serious an issue equal and fair pay is for women across the organisation. The BBC should be the standard bearer for this. We await the swift release of meaningful data that we can trust and for solutions that will rectify injustices to be put in place before the end of the year.

“We need full transparency. Our aim is to change things for women in broadcasting now, and to encourage and reassure young women coming into the industry whatever their role. We will be monitoring developments to ensure real change happens, and quickly.”

Suzanne Horne, partner and head of the international employment practice at Paul Hastings, added: “The announcement by the BBC to carry out an independent and transparent audit implies that it will publish any differences in pay between men and women and the reasons for those differences. If there are potential equal pay breaches, those affected will have the right to bring claims in either the tribunal or the civil court and compensation can be for up to six years in arrears plus interest.

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“While the UK does not have class actions, we have seen successful multiple claimant cases that have proved costly for public sector employers. Therefore, the BBC’s decision is high risk.

“In advance of the April 2018 deadline for publication of the gender pay and bonus gap data, UK employers would be wise to carry out privileged equal pay audits to determine if their gender pay gap is in fact illustrative of a breach of equal pay laws. Because these reports are not in the public domain, they offer employers the best opportunity to take remedial action to avoid breaches continuing or occurring.”