An Equality and Human Rights Commission investigation has found no unlawful discrimination against women at the BBC over their pay.
Former BBC China editor Carrie Gracie has questioned an investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission that has found no unlawful acts of pay discrimination against women in the corporation.
Gracie, who resigned as China editor over claims of unequal pay when she discovered fellow male editors were paid significantly more than her, called the EHRC’s investigation into the BBC a “whitewash” and said the investigation had only looked a small number of cases. #BBCWomen also said it was “deeply disappointed” with the report and said they it not reflect the experiences of women working at the BBC. Publication of the report follows an employment tribunal ruling earlier this year in favour of BBC presenter Samira Ahmed who claimed unequal pay compared to fellow presenter Jeremy Vine.
The EHRC investigation started in March 2019 following high profile cases of suspected pay discrimination and after extensive discussions with the BBC. It looked at suspected historical pay discrimination at the BBC and the systems and processes for setting pay and assessing complaints.
The investigation took evidence from women at the BBC about their experiences and from the BBC and carried out detailed equal pay analyses on a sample of pay complaints.
The report has identified a number of areas where it says improvements can be made to rebuild trust with women at the organisation and increase transparency around decision-making and communications. The EHRC says the BBC accepts that its historical practices were not fit for purpose and has made significant changes since 2015.
The investigation found inadequate record-keeping on how decisions about pay were made, leading to confusion and poor communication and risking the organisation being unable to justify how decisions were reached and a sense of declining trust.
The EHRC also criticised the BBC complaints system for taking too long to resolve cases and said employees must have trust in the independence of a complaints process and know cases will be resolved in a realistic timetable, with clear communication from beginning to end.
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 BBC accepts that change was needed and has made wide-ranging improvements. Our recommendations will help it go much further to rebuild trust and increase transparency so the BBC does not leave itself open to the risk of pay discrimination in the future.
“It is sad that we are still having to debate equal pay for equal work. Equal pay is the law and has been for 50 years. Every employer should read this report and ask if they are doing all they can to reduce the risk of pay discrimination. If in doubt, take action now.”
The report has also highlighted the substantial overlap in pay bands, which it says creates a possibility of those in a higher grade being paid less than someone a grade below, potentially leading to a risk of pay discrimination.