The decision by an experienced BBC journalist to resign from her role as the corporation’s China editor has put the issue of pay equality back in the spotlight.
Carrie Gracie, who last month stood down from her job in Beijing to take a position back in the London newsroom, has said she could not collude in a policy which she has branded “unlawful pay discrimination.”
Speaking after her resignation, Ms Gracie said she had accepted the role believing that she would be paid the same as men doing comparable jobs.
But it emerged last year that, in fact, her male counterparts were earning considerably more than her £135,000-a-year salary.
Speaking to Radio 4, Ms Gracie said: “I [could not] stay silent and watch the BBC perpetuate a failing pay structure by discriminating against women.
“The support I have had in the last few hours over this, I think it does speak to the depth of hunger for an equal, fair and transparent pay system.”
Controversy first erupted last summer, with the publication of a list of the BBC’s highest earners. It emerged that two thirds of those named were men and there appeared to be a number of cases in which women in equivalent roles were being paid less than male colleagues.
A spokeswoman said pay fairness was “vital” and the broadcaster would look to improve transparency in relation to its procedures.
Lara Murray, a Palmers Associate and employment law expert, said: “Ms Gracie appears to have suggested that the BBC runs the risk of being dragged into an expensive legal battle by women who feel they have been discriminated against and, given the ructions being felt more than six months on from the pay data being published, this would certainly appear to be a possibility.
“However, the BBC are not the only employer to be facing allegations of flouting the equal pay laws. Tesco currently stands accused of unfairly favouring its predominantly male warehouse workers, by giving them higher rates of pay than shop floor staff, many of whom are women. If the claim is successful Tesco could be liable for back pay totalling £4 billion.”
“These latest controversies show that even some of Britain’s biggest organisations can find themselves embroiled in damaging rows about their employment practices.
“All employers, regardless of their size need to be aware of the rules regarding equal pay and should seek expert legal advice to ensure they are complaint.”
For help and advice on all aspects of employment law including equality legislation, please contact us.