BBC Women's Group Slams Investigation Clearing Broadcaster Of Pay Discrimination

A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which analysed just 10 pay dispute cases, has been labelled a "whitewash".

The equality watchdog’s decision to clear the BBC of pay discrimination has been met with anger and disappointment by journalists and campaigners.

Having reviewed a grand total of 10 “high risk” cases of pay dispute, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found no unlawful acts committed by the corporation, though it did recommend it rebuilds trust with female employees and improves transparency.

The BBC Women group, formed in 2017 in response to gender pay disparity, said they were “deeply disappointed” by the findings of the investigation, which did not reflect their experiences.

A statement posted on Twitter said: “The EHRC tells us they found no breach of the law in how the BBC handled pay complaints — this does not address the systemic issue of unequal pay suggested by the hundreds of pay increases and settlements the BBC has made to women.

“Out of over 1,000 complaints, the EHRC looked in depth at only 10 cases and accepted the BBC’s excuses for why these were not ‘likely’ to be equal pay cases. We question why the EHRC discounted equal pay cases it knows the BBC has been forced to settle. New cases are coming forward and women are still heading to court. We fight on.”

Carrie Gracie resigned from the BBC in protest at pay inequalities, prompting an apology from the corporation and a settlement over back pay. She likened the ruling to a “whitewash”.

Responding the EHRC’s decision, the National Union of Journalists general secretary said there will be many members who read the report and feel it doesn’t address their lived experiences.

Michelle Stanistreet said: “The fact that so many individual settlements, including Samira Ahmed’s NUJ-backed tribunal win, have taken place underlines the clear problems that have existed.

“It’s also important to acknowledge that where settlements have taken place, it’s taken an enormous amount of determination, effort and persistence on the part of individuals determined to hold the BBC to account and that comes at a practical and emotional cost.

“There are still vital changes that need to take place as the EHRC makes clear – we need urgent action to tackle problems with pay progression, to resolve the issues of outliers, and to improve transparency.”

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

David M. Benett via Getty Images

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

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

Suzanne Baxter, board member lead for the investigation, said of the women who might feel surprised by its conclusions: “We listened very hard to what they said. We did a really thorough investigation.

“Whilst they may be disappointed…we hope that they will be given some comfort that actually what we’ll see is some improvement for women downstream.”

Rebecca Hilsenrath, the watchdog’s chief executive, said that “the processes, if not the outcomes, let women down”.

“There was somebody who was passed between eight different people in 10 months,” she said.

“These are real people having a really terrible time. We heard from them in terms of them saying they suffered humiliation, anxiety, insomnia, anger, being signed off work.

“If the processes have let you down...then you don’t trust what’s going on. We hope our recommendations will help a build a better relationship with the women at the BBC.”

This comes after a parliamentary report said on Wednesday that Black people are being failed by the EHRC.


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