Enrique Garcia, employment law consultant for the ELAS Group, takes a deeper look at the issues raised by the BBC gender pay gap report.
After releasing the salaries of 96 of their highest paid stars, the BBC is now under pressure to give a valid explanation as to why many female stars are paid less than their male colleagues – if the reasons behind the pay gap are not satisfactory then the BBC could be facing costly equal pay claims, both financially and reputationally.
Radio 4’s Today show presenter John Humphrys earns up to £650,000, more than twice that of his colleague Nick Robinson who earns up to £299,999, and considerably more than Mishal Husain (£249,999), Justin Webb (£199,999) and Sarah Montague (<£150,000).
Humphrys’ pay also includes his role on BBC2 Mastermind and, while he argued that it was right for the BBC to publish its stars’ salaries, he complained about the fact that some of his ‘brilliant’ female colleagues – including Montague and Husain – didn’t make the list, saying “I’m not happy with that…I don’t think that is right.”
Jane Garvey, who presents Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4, has said that women can benefit from this information being made public. She said: “I suspect that a lot of women will be energised by this and will take the opportunity to shout and make their feelings very clear on the issue of their pay. The cat will not be allowed to get back in the bag.”
At first glance, there appears to be a vast difference between the pay for presenters on the BBC Breakfast show with Dan Walker earning up to £250,000 a year. Fellow presenters Louise Minchin and Sally Nugent didn’t make the list – meaning they earn less than £150,000, whereas Naga Munchetty is paid up to £199,999. The reason for her higher pay is said to be linked to her appearance on a recent series of Strictly Come Dancing and Walker gave further insight into the difference on his Twitter account, saying: “We get (paid) exactly the same for BBC Breakfast. I have another job on Football Focus.”
Enrique Garcia says: “The fallout from the BBC releasing this information has shown clearly why companies should take the time to explain any difference in pay between their male and female employees.
“While, on paper, there does appear to be a huge difference in male and female salaries at the BBC there may actually be some logical explanations, at least for some. When you have two colleagues who do the same job, for example Huw Edwards and Fiona Bruce who have co-presented BBC News since 1999, and the man earns more than the woman (£200,000 more in this instance) then red flags are raised. If Fiona Bruce has Equal Pay Concerns then the BBC would need to demonstrate that they have a material factor justifying the difference; given that she also hosts the Antiques Roadshow and other programmes on the BBC there appear to be legitimate questions that need to be asked.
“In comparison when you look at the One Show presenters Matt Baker and Alex Jones, on paper there appears to be a difference in pay between the two. Matt Baker takes home £50,000 more than Alex Jones, however the fact that he also hosts Countryfile could explain the difference.
“Certainly there are questions to be asked surrounding equality considering that, of the 96 salaries released, only a third of the top earners are women and only 11 are BAME. The highest paid BAME presenters take home between £200,000 and £250,000, a long way behind the highest paid male and female presenters and the BBC will be under pressure to do something about this. Lord Hall has pledged to close the gender pay gap and have equality on screen and radio by 2020 which, if successful, would put the BBC ahead of the predicted 2059 for gender equitable pay in the UK, if current trends persist.”