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BBC cleared of pay discrimination but must “rebuilt trust” with women, watchdog says

Posted on: November 12, 2020 by Mariella Brown

An investigation into equal pay at the BBC has found no unlawful acts of pay discrimination, a watchdog report has found today.

However, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found the corporation must increase transparency and rebuild trust with its female employees.

The investigation by the equality watchdog which began in March 2019 found that the corporation has made significant changes since 2015 and have “reduced the risk of pay discrimination considerably”.

But the report found that the BBC had an inconsistent approach to pay in the past, with poor record-keeping and communication leading to managers being unable to explain to people why they were being paid differently to those doing the same or similar work.

Equality and Human Rights Commission interim chair Caroline Waters said it was easy to see why trust between some women at the BBC and the organisation had 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,” Waters said.

“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 report, which examined 10 cases out of the 1,000 complaints it was presented with, follows several high-profile cases on pay equality at the corporation.

BBC China editor Carrie Gracie receiving back pay and a full apology after resigning from her position in 2018, and presenter Samira Ahmed won a sex discrimination equal pay case against the BBC earlier in the year.

Responding to the report, BBC Director-General Tim Davie agreed to accept and implement each of the recommendations.

Mr 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.”

Responding to the report, the BBC has said it will:

  • Conduct regular equal pay audits, at least every five years.
  • Continue to improve the technology we use to aid real time pay comparisons and improve our record keeping of pay decisions to improve pay reporting and analysis.
  • Review our job pay ranges to reduce overlap.
  • Consider measures to resolve staff being paid more than the maximum of their pay range.
  • Set a realistic timescale for new pay queries, update on progress regularly and ensure that outcomes are communicated effectively, including signposting to wellbeing support.
  • Roll out further training for all our team leaders and HR teams on equal pay, fair pay and effective pay management.
  • Continue to build on our Diversity & Inclusion training with a focus on inclusive culture and behaviours.

Read the full EHRC report here.