The BBC has been accused of a potentially major data breach after the names of 120 female employees who had pursued equal pay complaints against the broadcaster were inadvertently revealed during presenter Samira Ahmed’s employment tribunal case.
The document names BBC women who had put their names to a letter issued by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in an attempt to address unequal pay at the corporation.
It was made available in unredacted form to members of the public and press during Ahmed’s hearing as part of the bundles of supporting evidence.
The BBC has denied responsibility for the breach. A spokesperson for the corporation said the letter was ““This is a NUJ document making a complaint on behalf of the members named; it was included in the claimant’s disclosure and annexed to a letter referred to specifically in the evidence of the NUJ witness.”
“At the request of the claimant’s solicitors it was included in the bundle of legal papers that were made publicly available following evidence sessions in the court. It is fundamentally wrong to describe the NUJ’s evidence as a BBC mistake,” they added.
The NUJ, however, said the broadcaster was responsible. “It is very concerning that the names of individuals who made a group complaint via the NUJ to the BBC were included in the bundle prepared by the BBC,” a spokesperson said.
“Whilst the collective grievance was referenced in the NUJ’s evidence to the tribunal, the names of BBC employees were not and should have been redacted.”
The BBC yesterday emailed the staff on the list to notify them that their complaints – and, in some cases, pay grades – had been made public, the Guardian reported. LINK
Ahmed is seeking almost £700,000 in back pay from the broadcaster in an alleged breach of equal pay legislation, in a case supported by the NUJ.
The case compares the £440 Ahmed was paid for presenting each episode of Newswatch with the fee of up to £3,000 received by Jeremy Vine per episode of Points of View.
The tribunal is the first major equal pay case since the BBC’s gender pay policies came under scrutiny in 2017, when it revealed there was just one woman among its 10 highest-paid employees.
Ahmed’s legal team have argued that the two journalists do a “very similar job” as both shows are presenter-led and explore audience feedback on BBC programmes.
The BBC has said it did not break the law requiring equal pay for equal work, insisting the two were different programmes for different audiences.
Ahmed has presented Newswatch since 2012, and also presents Front Row on BBC Radio 4. She has previously secured an agreement with the corporation for full back pay for her radio work after it emerged she was paid up to 50 per cent less than her male equivalent.
Main image credit: Getty