13 Jul 2018

The BBC has published their latest list of its highest-paid stars as part of its annual report. Lorraine Heard, Legal Director, comments on the issues surrounding equal pay and gender pay gap:

"The BBC's commitment to rectifying its gender pay issues over time, emphasising that it is "making progress" but that "these things take time" to address, reflects the approach that many organisations have adopted when publishing their gender pay gap figures.  

"The most often cited reason for a gender pay gap is the gender imbalance in favour of men in the senior ranks as compared with the gender imbalance in favour of women in the junior ranks.  

This produces a gender pay gap in the sense that a mathematical average will give a higher average rate of pay for the higher proportion of higher paid male employees in the organisation as compared with the higher proportion of lower paid female employees.

"However, as the BBC acknowledges in its Statutory Gender Pay Report, equal pay and the gender pay gap are not the same. Whilst organisations can take their time to address a gender imbalance across their workforce, they have an immediate and ongoing obligation to ensure that they comply with their equal pay obligations. This involves ensuring that comparative male and female employees are paid on the same basis for doing the same jobs, or jobs that are of equal value, unless there is legal justification for the difference in pay.

"The information the BBC has published notes that its highest paid employees are men, but reveals little more than this. The extent of any pay differential is unclear when payments to some BBC employees by the commercial entity BBC Studios do not have to be declared. In addition, as the reason for the difference in pay as between male and female co-hosts at the BBC does not form part of the information it has put into the public domain it remains unclear whether the BBC has an equal pay problem.  

"What is perhaps interesting is that the BBC's solution to the situation appears to involve reducing the pay of some of its employees. Where an equal pay issue is identified, the legally acceptable solution involves enhancing the pay of the lower paid employee up to that of the higher paid appropriate comparator.  Few organisations would be able to highlight the fact that they pay some employees less than others, reduce the pay of higher paid employees, and not lose key staff or end up with a largely disaffected workforce."