The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is investigating claims that female employees at the BBC have not received equal pay to their male colleagues despite doing equal work.
The investigation, which will relate to the BBC’s historic policy and pay practices, is set to examine formal and informal pay grievances raised by BBC staff in order to determine if there has been unlawful pay discrimination, alongside the effectiveness of the system for hearing grievances fairly. This announcement is following up on findings from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), who have processed more than 200 equal pay cases from female employees at the Corporation.
The commission will work to analyse the roles of the female complainants’ verses those in comparator roles in order to identify any differences in pay and whether there is a ‘material reason for that difference that is not sex’. Once enquiries are completed, the EHRC will publish a report outlining its findings, any actions it has taken and recommendations for the BBC to counteract this issue. Currently, the investigation is set to have concluded by the end of 2019.
Reaffirming the importance of ensuring that staff enjoy a working environment that ‘allows them to achieve their full attention’, this investigation serves as a reminder to organisations that it is illegal to pay a female employee less than a male employee for the same work or work that could be deemed of ‘comparable value’ unless there is a material factor defence. If it is found that this is taking place and no defence is available, the organisation can face substantial claims for equal pay at a tribunal.
Organisations should also remember that, when assessing claims for equal pay, the jobs in question do not have to be identical. The recent high profile case of ASDA Stores Ltd v Brierley has demonstrated that employees who work in different departments are able to bring a claim if they can establish that a job with a predominantly male workforce has similar terms and conditions than jobs with a predominantly female workforce but are being paid differently.
With this seeming to be the latest in a series of complaints over pay levelled at the BBC, organisations should be wary of the effect that this can have on their internal and external reputation and take steps to work against it. It should also be remembered that the deadline for 2019’s gender pay gap report, which will highlight if overall earnings of female employees have increased or decreased in the last 12 months in comparison to male colleagues, is fast approaching for eligible organisations.