Samira Ahmed wins equal pay case

Presenter Samira Ahmed wins her employment tribunal case for equal pay against the BBC.

equal pay

 

The journalist Samira Ahmed has won her equal pay case against the BBC.

The London Central Employment Tribunal determined that the presenting work of Ahmed on BBC’s Newswatch programme was equal to that of Jeremy Vine on Points of View.

The panel found that the work of the two presenters was “like work” – the same or broadly similar – making it clear that any differences between the two programmes were minor and had no impact on the work that the two presenters did, or the skills and experience required to present the programmes.

In its written judgment the panel stated: “The difference in pay in this case was striking. Jeremy Vine was paid more than six times what the claimant was paid for doing the same work.”

When providing evidence to justify the pay differential, the BBC’s legal team argued that presenting Points of View relied upon Jeremy Vine’s ability to have a “glint in his eye” or to be “cheeky”. The panel dismissed this argument, stating: “We had difficulty in understanding what the respondent meant by a ‘glint in the eye’ and how that translated into a ‘skill’ or ‘experience’ to do a job. How does one acquire such a skill or experience? In any event, the light-hearted tone and any cheekiness were achieved primarily by the script being written in a particular style. The attempts at humour came from the script.”

NUJ response

The NUJ says the judgement also highlights the lack of transparency and inconsistency in the BBC’s approach to setting pay. It says: “The BBC found itself in difficulties in this case because it did not (and, to an extent, still does not) have a transparent and consistent process for evaluating and determining pay for its on-air talent.”

Samira Ahmed commented: “No woman wants to have to take action against their own employer. I love working for the BBC. I’m glad it’s been resolved. I’d like to thank my union the NUJ, especially Michelle Stanistreet the general secretary, my legal team Caroline Underhill of Thompsons Solicitors and my barrister Claire Darwin and everyone – all the women and men who’ve supported me and the issue of equal pay. I’m now looking forward to continuing to do my job, to report on stories and not being one.”

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, stated: “It was an incredibly brave decision on Samira’s part to take forward this case. No-one wants to battle their employer in a public tribunal hearing, but the BBC’s failure to meaningfully negotiate made legal proceedings inevitable.

“For the BBC this became a battle over the differences as they saw it between their internal divisional silos of News and Entertainment. For the NUJ, this was simply a case of two roles that were commensurate, on two programmes that were supremely comparable, carried out by two high profile experienced presenters.”

Since the end of the tribunal, the NUJ has been asking the BBC to resolve a number of other similar cases and says there have been “numerous positive outcomes”.

Stanistreet says, however, that there is still work to be done. “I’d call on the BBC to learn the lessons from this judgment, and to work constructively with the NUJ to sort these cases out,” she said. “The joint unions have done a lot of work with the BBC on improving pay structures, but there is much more to be done to ensure that genuine equality and transparency on pay becomes the reality for all employees at the BBC.”

She added: “This outcome should also be a wake-up call for all employers. Stamping out the scourge of unequal pay at work should be a priority for all organisations.”

BBC response

A BBC spokesperson said the corporation is committed to equality and equal pay. It stated this case was never about one person, but the way different types of programmes across the media industry attract different levels of pay and that it would be considering the verdict before taking its next steps.
The spokesperson added: “We have always believed that the pay of Samira and Jeremy Vine was not determined by their gender. Presenters – female as well as male – had always been paid more on Points Of View than Newswatch.
“We’re sorry the Tribunal didn’t think the BBC provided enough evidence about specific decisions – we weren’t able to call people who made decisions as far back as 2008 and have long since left the BBC.
“In the past our pay framework was not transparent and fair enough, and we have made significant changes to address that; we’re glad this satisfied the Tribunal that there was sufficient evidence to explain [Ahmed’s] pay now.”


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