Samira Ahmed had compared her earnings to fellow presenter Jeremy Vine, who was paid nearly six times the amount she was over a ten-year period.
Ahmed claimed that the significant difference between her and Vine’s salaries were a result of her gender, and that the BBC had therefore discriminated against her. In her argument, she explained that her work for BBC programme Newswatch was similar to Vine’s on another show, Points of View, as both programmes followed a similar format. If proven, Ahmed could potentially have been entitled to a back-pay amount nearing £700,000. Now, in a ruling released on Friday, the employment tribunal (ET) has upheld her argument.
Although the BBC tried to argue the two shows had different profiles, and that Vine was more recognisable than Ahmed, the tribunal took issue with this explanation. Judge Harjit Grewal outlined that the BBC ‘had failed to prove’ this argument, also stating that Jeremy Vine’s ability to be ‘cheeky’ and have a ‘glint in his eye’ did not translate into ‘skill or experience’ in which to do the job. The Judge further commented that ‘the attempts at humour came from the script’ and therefore not from Vine himself.
Whilst this ruling has received a significant amount of publicity, this is only the latest issue of equal pay that has been brought to light about the BBC over the past few years. Former China editor Carrie Grace has previously resigned amid claims of pay inequality, whilst BBC Breakfast presenter, Sarah McGovern, has commented that this issue is not only limited to gender but also stretches to social class. Going forward, the BBC will likely find itself under even more pressure to justify the salaries of its journalists and presenters, with Vine himself already seeing a wage decrease from £3,000 to £1,300 an episode in 2018 as a result of criticisms.
With the deadline for the publishing of 2020 gender pay gap reports approaching, organisations would be wise to implement their own procedures to ensure gender pay equality. Whilst equal pay is a separate issue to the gender pay gap, pay disparity between male and female employees conducting the same, or similar work, can be a significant contributor to a gap.
To this end, organisations should consider conducting pay reviews on a routine basis to make sure there is an equal and fair salary balance across their workforce, ensuring salary is based on the job role, skills and experience, rather than on gender. Another option to explore is the prohibition of salary negotiation, with studies showing that male employees are more likely to negotiate higher salaries than their female colleagues and, therefore, earn more than those in similar roles.