BBC Must 'Rebuild Trust' With Women Following Equal Pay Row, Says Equality Watchdog

The EHRC found no unlawful acts of pay discrimination. It did not investigate the Samira Ahmed case.
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An investigation into historic issues of equal pay at the BBC has found no unlawful acts of pay discrimination but the corporation has been told to increase transparency and rebuild trust with women who work there.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) investigation started in March 2019 following publicly reported cases of suspected pay discrimination. It looked at into the cases as well as systems and processes for setting pay and assessing complaints.

The high profile case of Samira Ahmed, who won her sex discrimination equal pay case against the BBC earlier this year was not, however, considered, HuffPost UK heard on Thursday.

Evidence came from women at the BBC who spoke of their experiences, and from the BBC on its processes for setting pay and resolving grievances. The commissioned looked at just 10 “high risk” cases of alleged pay discrimination before arriving at its conclusion.

EHRC interim Chair, Caroline Waters, 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.”

Ahmed, a Newswatch presenter, brought the corporation to an employment tribunal in 2019, claiming she was paid a sixth of what Jeremy Vine received for hosting the similar show Points of View.

More than 700 female, BBC employees were given pay rises since the start of its equal pay scandal, The Guardian revealed in September.

The report has also highlighted the substantial overlap in pay bands, identified as an issue in previous reports and reviews. This creates a possibility of those in a higher grade being paid less than someone a grade below, potentially leading to a risk of pay discrimination.

“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,” Waters added.

“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.”

When HuffPost UK questioned the EHRC’s commitment to uncovering the truth behind concerns of pay discrimination at the BBC, its chief executive affirmed this and made reference to the watchdog’s track record.

Rebecca Hilsenrath said: “As the chief executive of our commission I’m actually very proud of our track record in making robust findings where we see the evidence – we are evidence based.

“We are proud of our report calling out unlawful acts in the Labour Party, I’m proud of the fact that we’ve achieved 100% compliance in relation to the gender pay gap regulations (...), we have a track record of acting and finding difficult truths. I don’t think there’s any reason to suppose that would have been any different in this case.”


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