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BBC publishes gender pay data revealing 9% gap

The BBC published the results of their detailed pay review last Wednesday.  The review showed that male employees are being paid on average 9.3% more than women, and that nearly 500 employees may be getting paid less than colleagues of the opposite sex who perform a similar role.

The review followed the widespread reporting of disparities in the pay of individual BBC stars this summer, and some commentators suggested that the BBC’s release of the information a few minutes before the Prime Minister gave her speech at the Conservative Party conference was an attempt to minimise the attention the figures received. If so, the drama of the PM’s coughing, protestor issues and set design failures will have been very welcome at Broadcasting House.

Now that the dust has settled (a bit) from that, we can focus on the BBC’s reports, which also represent their compliance with the UK’s new gender pay gap regulations (see here for more information).  The low size of the raw pay gap will have been a source of relief to management: 9.3% at the BBC vs. 18.1% nationally.  So too will the comments of Sir Patrick Elias, Court of Appeal judge (and former President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal), who reviewed the report and endorsed the conclusion that there is “no systemic discrimination against women in the BBC’s pay arrangements”.

However, the report also took a closer look at those job roles where there was a gender pay difference of more than 5%.  In 8.6% of those cases, the report found that there was insufficient evidence to understand whether there was a non-gender reason for the pay gap (i.e. in effect the report could not rule out a breach of the equal pay laws under the Equality Act 2010).  While the results might be largely reassuring, we imagine that those 8.6% of employees and their unions will be giving some careful thought as to how to pursue the potential equal pay claim picked out by the report.

As ever, employer diversity reporting involves striking a fine balance between pro-activity and honesty on the one hand, and minimising liabilities on the other.  The BBC reports (like the PwC race reports we covered recently) illustrate one possible approach; we suspect many private sector employers will be a little more cautious.