BBC loses equal pay claim

After months of controversy surrounding the BBC and whispers of gender pay disparity, Samira Ahmed has won the employment tribunal claim she brought against them in a dispute over equal pay. The unanimous decision was handed down in the London Central Employment last week and is a landmark decision that could open the floodgates for future claims against the BBC.

Ahmed made the £700,000 claim after discovering that she was paid £440 per episode for hosting audience feedback show Newswatch, while Jeremy Vine was paid £3,000 per episode for hosting Points of View. Ahmed argued that the presenter’s roles were comparable and that they therefore should have both been paid equally. The tribunal agreed and concluded that the BBC had failed to show that the difference in pay was because of a material factor which was not the difference of sex.    

The Equality Act 2010 implies into all contracts of employment an “equality clause”, which means that people of the opposite sex are entitled to be paid the same when they are employed either to do:

  1. like work – this is work which is the same or broadly similar;
  2. work which has been rated as being equivalent under a job eventuation scheme; or
  3. work which is of an equal value to that performed by a member of the opposite sex in the same employment.    

If any of these three situations exist, any term in a woman’s contract (for example) which is less favourable than a man’s contract shall be modified to ensure it becomes equal.

If changes fail to be made, then employees can make a claim to the Tribunal for compensation. If the claim is upheld and they are successful, the compensation awarded to them can be limitless. In this case, Ahmed could now be awarded up to a substantial £700,000 in compensation, primarily comprising of back pay. 

Whilst the decision does not change the application of equal pay law and may in fact be appealed by the BBC, it is a stark reminder to all employers of the importance and benefits of having transparent processes for determining pay.

If you have any questions as an employer in relation to equal pay or if you think that you might have been discriminated against in relation to your pay based on gender, then please contact our Employment Team on 0161 926 1508, or follow our employment law-specific Twitter account @HRHeroUK.