The Equalities and Human Rights Commission will write to the BBC to seek answers about allegations of pay discrimination following the resignation of Carrie Gracie as its China editor over its “secretive and illegal” pay culture.
The BBC is also facing the prospect of lawsuits from female employees who believe they have been paid less than men for doing the same jobs.
Jennifer Millins, employment partner at Mishcon de Reya, is advising more than 10 senior women at the BBC. She said: “They don’t feel their complaints are being dealt with in a meaningful way. The process has taken a very long time. If the BBC does not resolve this internally, then individuals will be forced to sue.”
The pay row began last summer when the BBC published a list of its top-earning stars, which revealed that only a third were women and the top seven were all men.
In response to heavy criticism, the BBC published a series of pay reviews and audits in October that concluded that men were being paid 9.3% more than women on average – less than the UK average of 18.1% – but that there is “no systemic discrimination against women”.
However, this judge-led review did not include the vast majority of on-air presenters, editors and senior managers, sparking frustration among women at the BBC. The review also found that in about one in 10 cases where there was substantial difference in pay between men and women doing similar jobs there was no clear reason for the disparity other than gender and it did not rule out individual cases of discrimination.
The row is likely to take a further twist when the BBC publishes a highly-anticipated report by accountancy firm PwC into the pay of on-air staff, which is expected within the next couple of weeks. BBC insiders say this will analyse whether there are discrepancies in pay and that the corporation will “stand by the judgements be they helpful or unhelpful”.
However, Millins said: “I suspect time and money is being thrown at it [the report] but whether it will be significant is another matter.”
Read the full article in The Guardian and see further coverage in The Times (subscription only).
Jennifer Millins also featured on BBC News, Sky News, BBC 5 live drive, Channel 4 News, CNN, and Newsnight on 8 January speaking to this issue.