BBC pay reporting raises clear equal pay issues for the Corporation and the media industry as a whole.
Yesterday the BBC was required to reveal the identities of staff it pays over £150,000 a year. Rightly, a great deal of concern has been raised of the significant disparities in pay between male and female presenters. All of the top 7 earners in the list are male, as are just under two thirds of the 96 in total.
This announcement has led to considerable and valid discussion about the Gender Pay Gap, which reflects the underpayment of women across the country compared to men. The announcement also reveals that not only are women at the BBC being paid less across the Corporation, but also that individual women may be being paid less for doing exactly the same job.
Equal Pay legislation was originally introduced in 1970 and was incorporated into the Equality Act 2010. It dictates in relatively broad terms that where specific men and women are performing the same work, they should receive the same salary. The figures produced by the BBC strongly suggest that female presenters are paid less than male presenters for performing the same tasks. This would be unlawful and entitle the women involved to claims for damages for underpayment of salary.
It is alarming that a number of presenters on the same programmes are being paid different salaries, usually to the advantage of the man. As a public body, the BBC has specific obligations under the Public Sector Equality Duty (s.149 Equality Act 2010), which compels it to eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity between men and women (for example). This gives rise to other potential direct and indirect sex discrimination claims outside of the Equal Pay context.
A further and important consideration is that it is unlikely that the BBC will be the only broadcaster, or even media organisation, which may be paying its male staff more than female. It is more likely that this is an industry-wide issue, meaning that valid claims for Equal Pay may be explored against other organisations in the media industry. It follows that these organisations should not consider themselves safe solely on the basis that they are unlikely to be legally compelled to publically release pay information. After all, this information would be revealed (albeit confidentially) in any legal proceedings seeking compensation for underpaid salary.
Bindmans specialises in bringing discrimination claims and has a longstanding reputation of acting for individuals in the media industry.