Equality watchdog finds no unlawful pay discrimination by the BBC

By Sherna Noah, PA Senior Entertainment Correspondent
·3-min read

An investigation by the equality watchdog has found no unlawful acts of pay discrimination by the BBC.

But the Equality and Human Rights Commission recommended improvements to rebuild trust with female employees and improve transparency.

Its report said the BBC accepts its historical practices were not fit for purpose and has made significant changes since 2015.

It found inadequate record-keeping on how decisions about pay were made, leading to confusion and poor communication with women making complaints.

Equality and Human Rights Commission interim chair Caroline Waters said: “It is easy to see why trust between some women at the BBC and the organisation has broken down.

“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 commission launched an investigation into equal pay at the BBC in March last year.

The watchdog said it suspected some female BBC employees “have not received equal pay for equal work”.

It examined whether men and women were paid the same salary for the same job, saying it had “been a legal requirement for almost 50 years”.

The investigation looked at the period from January 1 2016, covering formal and informal pay complaints.

BBC chairman Sir David Clementi said the findings had been “noted” and the BBC board was pleased that the EHRC “recognise the board’s commitment to ongoing reform”.

He added: “Equal pay is a vital issue and the board will continue to oversee the BBC’s work to be a leader in this area.”

Tim Davie, new Director General of the BBC
Tim Davie is the new director general of the BBC (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The corporation’s new director-general, Tim Davie, said: “We welcome this report from the EHRC. We note that the commission has made no unlawful findings against the BBC and recognises that there have been significant improvements to BBC pay practices in recent years.

“However, we have 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.

“We agree with the commission that we should continue to deliver on our reform programme which began in 2015. We accept every one of their recommendations and will implement them.”

Mr Davie recently told MPs there were 20 gender discrimination cases outstanding at the corporation.

In January, Newswatch presenter Samira Ahmed won a sex discrimination equal pay claim against the BBC.

In 2019, radio presenter Sarah Montague won a £400,000 settlement and an apology over unequal treatment.

Carrie Gracie resigned from her position as China editor in 2018
Carrie Gracie resigned from her position as China editor in 2018 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Carrie Gracie resigned from her position as China editor in 2018 in protest at pay inequalities. She was eventually given a full apology by the corporation and received back pay, which she donated to a women’s equality charity.

The furore was sparked when the organisation published, in 2017, the salaries of its highest earners.

Latest BBC figures on the broadcaster’s best-paid stars make Zoe Ball the top earning talent – as Gary Lineker is taking a pay cut.

Fiona Bruce, Vanessa Feltz and Lauren Laverne are also in the top 10.