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Warning of legal action over BBC gender pay divide
24th July 2017
The recent revelation that the BBC’s top-earning male stars are paid more than their female counterparts may create more work for lawyers, with several firms claiming that sex discrimination cases could be launched.
The figures, which were published last Wednesday (19 July), caused consternation among some observers; perhaps the most powerful statistic to emerge was that of the best-remunerated presenter, Chris Evans, taking home more than £2million compared to the less than £500,000 earnt by Claudia Winkleman, the corporation’s highest-paid female.
Speaking to the Evening Standard, Ruth Gamble – a partner at employment law specialists BDBF – was unequivocal in her view that the BBC may have some tricky months ahead as a result of the pay disclosures: “If the BBC’s list of salaries shows that a female presenter on a primetime show is being paid less than a male presenter on the same show or a similar one, they have the makings of a good sex discrimination or equal pay claim.”
Lord Hall: Comparisons ‘not straightforward’
However, Lord Hall, Director-general at the BBC, was keen to defend the organisation’s record on gender issues, noting that “of the top talent who are on the list [who] we have hired or promoted in the last three years, more than 60 per cent are women.”
He also added that “comparing people’s pay is not straightforward”, as “very few do precisely the same thing…people working on the same show may have other – or different – commitments.” Nevertheless, Lord Hall did concede that the BBC does have “further and faster” to go when it comes to eliminating gender and diversity discrepancies.
Regardless of the BBC’s comments, however, close scrutiny of the pay figures by the relevant law firms on behalf of their ‘talent’ clients will now surely follow. As Luke Menzies of Menzies Law explained, lower paid presenters “might have a legal case for equal pay unless the employer can demonstrate that there are good reasons that explain the difference other than their sex”.