A review of the salaries for on-air BBC staff by PwC has found no evidence of gender bias or discrimination in the decision making process for pay, however, it has revealed a number of factors which contribute towards pay differences among staff, Peninsula Head of Advisory, Kate Palmer, provides her thoughts.

The review revealed factors contributing to the pay disparity between editors, presenters, correspondents and other on-air talent include: a lack of centralised pay frameworks; no clear pay ranges for specific roles; and a period of pay restraint undertaken by the organisation. These factors led to slow pay progression, a lack of transparency and decisions being made at lower levels, rather than centrally. Although the BBC acknowledges individuals will be paid differently due to the role they carry out within the company, and depending on what they bring to the role, the BBC has now recognised they must be more transparent, clear and open in their pay decisions.

Following the review, the BBC have pledged to put their pay right by consulting with staff to set fair, equal and transparent pay frameworks in place. Their plan includes introducing a clearer structure for their pay arrangements, including narrowing pay bands, reducing the number of contracts and setting out clear criteria which clarify how pay is awarded for an individual’s skills and experience. Other plans include looking at how the BBC can become a better place to work for females, including progression and flexible ways of working, whilst aiming to achieve 50:50 gender representation in on-air roles by 2020. The BBC have already taken steps to equalise pay, with a number of male presenters agreeing to take substantial pay cuts, and the BBC intends to continue this, whilst giving other staff pay increases.

The BBC’s Director-General has committed to closing the organisation’s gender pay gap by 2020. Their legally required gender pay gap report was published in 2017 which revealed an overall median gender pay gap of 9.3%. As the gender pay gap reporting deadline is closing in on public and private organisations, many employers are likely to be reviewing their pay data to assess whether there is pay disparity within their company. To avoid future complaints, these organisations may wish to take guidance from the BBC and announce their future plans to tackle any gender pay gap at the same time as they release their report.

For all businesses, the publicity around BBC pay is a reminder of the importance of providing equal pay. All members of staff are legally required to be paid equal pay for doing equal work regardless of their gender, unless there is a material reason for the difference in pay, such as the employee’s experience or skills. A failure to provide equal pay could result in a costly tribunal claim and, potentially, costly reputational risks as the spotlight remains firmly on this issue.