Thursday 12 November 2020 11:35 am

Equality watchdog clears BBC of gender pay discrimination

The BBC has been cleared of unlawful gender pay discrimination but was warned of a breakdown in trust between the broadcaster and its female employees.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) last year launched an investigation into the BBC following a string of pay complaints from high-profile presenters such as Carrie Grace and Samira Ahmed.

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In its findings published today, the equality watchdog found no unlawful acts of pay discrimination.

However, it highlighted a string of shortcomings in the way the BBC handled pay and complaints, including poor record-keeping on how decisions about pay were made.

The probe found that a number of documents were missing or incomplete, which the EHRC warned could leave the organisation unable to justify how decisions were made.

It said the BBC had acknowledged that its historical practices were not fit for purpose and had made significant changes since 2015.

The EHRC outlined a number of recommendations for the BBC, including reviewing its pay bands, improving record-keeping and being more transparent with employees about how their pay is decided.

“It is easy to see why trust between some women at the BBC and the organisation has broken down,” said interim EHRC chair Caroline Waters.

“Many women felt their voices were not being heard and have been left feeling confused as to how decisions about their pay have been made. This took a heavy emotional toll on those involved in the process and the strength of feeling of women at the BBC should not be understated.

“While we have not found any unlawful acts in our investigation, repairing the damage caused by these issues requires continued leadership and we hope the BBC board takes forward our recommendations.”

The BBC has settled hundreds of cases with female employees in recent years, issuing back pay or salary increases to resolve claims of unfair pay.

Carrie Grace, the corporation’s China editor, became a figurehead for the movement when she resigned in 2018 in protest at unequal pay.

In January Front Row and Newswatch presenter Samira Ahmed won a £700,000 employment tribunal case against the BBC after a judge ruled she had been paid less than Jeremy Vine for similar work.

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BBC director general Tim Davie said the corporation had to “work even harder to be best in class”. 

“Trust is vitally important and as an organisation that serves the public, the BBC must continue to lead the way on pay transparency and fairness. We are committed to building a truly inclusive culture.”