The DCMS select committee has published damning findings that the BBC has abjectly failed to uphold its legal obligations regarding equal pay. The report finds that the BBC has not only failed in its standard legal obligation to provide equal pay, but also its enhanced public sector equality duties under the Equality Act 2010, which require it to advance equality of opportunity. The report condemns the BBC's subsequent lack of action, which has added insult to injury.
Commenting on the report, Mishcon de Reya Employment Partner Jennifer Millins, who represented Carrie Gracie in her equal pay dispute with the organisation, said:
"While the BBC has responded that the report is out of date, this is not the experience of many BBC employees, many of whom face an ongoing battle. As the report highlights, the BBC is yet to admit to its equal pay problem and to deal with complaints in a consistent and fair way. Women continue to be left in the dark about their pay and have no trust in the chaotic, bureaucratic internal processes. While many women remain embroiled in the BBC's protracted internal complaints procedures, these findings, which include shocking evidence from BBC employees of all levels, would likely be compelling evidence in any discrimination or equal pay litigation against the BBC. Compensation in the employment tribunal could run into many millions of pounds, and could be increased by up to 25% as a result of the BBC's failure to deal with grievances swiftly and fairly.
"The report also marks a significant step forward for the second group of BBC staff who have suffered 'life-altering financial and personal consequences' as a result of the BBC's policy of engaging presenters through personal service companies - a policy that the BBC has denied. The organisation could face another huge bill if it is to bear presenters' liability for unpaid NICs. The BBC recently reported that it had spent considerable sums on external consultants and advisers, some of which went to produce three audits trying to explain away the BBC's equal pay problem. The report sees through these self-serving audits, preferring to rely on the clear and compelling evidence of those BBC staff who have lived this injustice and discrimination for many years now and who nevertheless continue to provide dedicated service to the Corporation.
"The equal pay scandal at the BBC has shone a spotlight on the broader issue of unequal pay. The BBC now has an opportunity to begin to correct this by adopting the report's recommendations without delay. This would be a sensible first step in restoring the public's and employees’ trust in the organisation. The reputational fallout for further denial and delay could be catastrophic.
"We await the government's response with great interest."
Jennifer featured on BBC News Channel commenting further on this, and was quoted in the Belfast Telegraph and The Irish News.