The BBC’s gender pay gap is below the national average – but the broadcaster still has serious problems on equal pay and diversity. Jennifer Millins and Camilla Down examine the review the BBC commissioned a retired judge to conduct.
The BBC may have hoped that its reported gender pay gap of 9.3%, around half the national average, would bring some respite from the recent negative headlines it has garnered on the issue. However, this figure should not mask the findings of other recently published papers about diversity at the BBC, including its Equal Pay Audit (the audit). The data groups used, the analysis conducted and the legal outcomes are very different in each. In fact, when taking all the reports as a whole, the BBC’s diversity reporting gives women few answers and little to cheer about.
The BBC went to the lengths of commissioning Sir Patrick Elias QC, former Court of Appeal judge and president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, to review both the audit and its Gender Pay Report (the report). His legal analysis was published, along with management’s response to the publications. Sir Patrick also concedes that the audit cannot ‘categorically establish that there is no discrimination against groups or individuals’, and that ‘there is always the possibility of discrimination in relation to particular individual cases’.
While Elias concludes that there is no systematic discrimination against women in the BBC’s pay arrangements, this comment does not relate to on-air staff, as most of this group was expressly excluded from the audit. Despite the public furore in July when the high-earners list revealed that of all staff paid £150,000 or more from licence fee revenue, only one third were women, the data published by the BBC is frustratingly opaque. The audit only deals with ‘graded staff levels’. Confusingly, this includes some on-air employees with staff grade employment contracts but not freelancers or employees on what the BBC calls ‘on-air talent contracts’. Conversely, we must assume that the report includes all employees on ‘on-air talent contracts’, as the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 (the regulations) require employers to report on all employees, as well as wider categories of workers. However, the BBC’s narrative is far from clear on this point. Further, the report is confined to BBC Public Service, excluding the BBC’s commercial entities entirely. The BBC has promised a separate review for on-air talent by the end of this year.
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