A few months after a public disclosure of high-earner compensation data revealed a significant pay gap between male and female stars at the BBC, the UK’s national broadcaster has announced a series of investigations into its pay practices and gender pay gap. BBC Director General Tony Hall revealed on Wednesday that he had commissioned PwC and the law firm Eversheds Sutherland to conduct an independent equal pay audit of the company, which will also produce an internal report on the gender pay gap and conduct a review of pay and diversity among its on-air talent:
Speaking to staff on Wednesday, Lord Hall said the BBC report on gender pay would cover the whole corporation and be independently audited, adding that he is “determined to close the gap”. … He said [the external audit] would “make sure that, where there are differences in pay, they’re justified”, adding: “If it throws up issues, we’ll deal with them immediately.”
The review of on-air talent will focus on presenters, editors and correspondents in BBC News and radio, he said. “Of course, we’ll be looking at pay – but also representation,” he said. “As I hope you know, we’ve set really ambitious targets – not just on gender, but on diversity more broadly.
In response to Hall, several leading women at the BBC circulated a statement on Twitter under the hashtag #BBCWomen, in which they stressed that the director “must be in no doubt about how serious an issue equal and fair pay is for women across the organisation,” and suggested that the target date he had previously set of 2020 for closing the gender pay gap was not soon enough:
We await the swift release of meaningful data that we can trust and for solutions that will rectify injustices to be put in place before the end of the year. We need full transparency. Our aim is to change things for women in broadcasting now, and to encourage and reassure young women coming into the industry whatever their role. We will be monitoring developments to ensure real change happens, and quickly.
If the BBC’s equal pay audit uncovers unjustifiable discrepancies in pay, lawyers tell the Guardian the broadcaster could face penalties:
Suzanne Horne, head of the international employment practice at Paul Hastings, said: “If there are potential equal pay breaches, those affected will have the right to bring claims in either the tribunal or the civil court, and compensation can be for up to six years in arrears plus interest. While the UK does not have class actions, we have seen successful multiple claimant cases that have proved costly for public sector employers.”