About 6 months ago, I wrote this post about BBC pay and the gender pay gap. Rather naively, I stated in that post “I can’t believe a major national organisation with extensive HR and legal resources would expose itself to such a reputational and financial risk” by breaching equal pay legislation. It appears I was wrong.
As has been widely reported, the BBC’s China Editor, Carrie Gracie, resigned at the weekend, citing the corporation’s failure to pay her at the same level as male colleagues doing the same job in different parts of the world. Reading her public post explaining her reasons for resignation, it appears that she does have the potential for a successful claim.
Equal Pay is either pretty straightforward – men and women doing the same job must be paid the same* – or complex – men and women doing jobs of equivalent value must be paid the same (this is complex because working out the “equivalent value” can be difficult and time-consuming to establish).
Ms Gracie’s case however seems to fall into the former category. As I understand it, there are a group of 4 senior journalists within the BBC who undertake editor roles for distinct regions of the world (Europe, North America, China, Middle East). So essentially there are 4 people who are doing the ‘same’ job – two of whom are men and two women.
Can the BBC justify a salary difference? It could, if it was able to show that the difference was due to
a) Work Performance
c) Market forces
d) Special duties or responsibilities
e) Greater skill and experience
Obviously, I can’t comment in any detail on most of those areas. But given the individuals in the 4 editor roles are long serving experienced BBC journalists, it would seem that reasons a), c) and e) are unlikely. Reason d) would seem to apply equally to all 4 – all of them undertake other BBC jobs (presenting on TV or radio etc), which leaves us with simply geography as the reason.
On that basis, I could probably argue a case that the Middle East editor should be paid higher (due to the need to visit war zones/higher degree of personal risk etc) and it might be justifiable to pay slightly differently if the cost of living were significantly different between countries/regions. But otherwise I’m struggling to see how the BBC will justify a difference in salary.
We’ll see how Ms Gracie’s claim does over time. But the message for my clients and other readers is that you should be paying men and women the same* for doing the same job and differences can only be justified for one of the reasons highlighted. A claim may not be as publicly damaging to your organisation but it has the potential to be very expensive.
(*To be clear, the same can mean within the same pay scale/band, not necessarily an identical salary)