Equalities watchdog intervenes after Carrie Gracie’s complaint about BBC pay

EHRC will write to corporation as journalists who publicly supported former China editor are told they cannot now report on gender pay row

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission will write to the BBC to attempt answers about allegations of pay discrimination following the abdication of Carrie Gracie as its China editor over its” secretive and illegal” pay culture.

The BBC is also facing the prospect of lawsuits from female employees who believe they have been paid less than men for doing the same jobs.

The EHRC has the power to bringing legal action- as well as name-and-shame organisations about inequality and discrimination- and its intervention into the pay row is embarrassing for the BBC.

A spokesperson for the public body said:” We are aware of claims by Carrie Gracie of unlawful pay discrimination at the BBC. Women have a legal right to equal pay with men for equal work.

” We will be writing to the BBC and requiring them to provide us with information on their pay policy and the facts in this individual occurrence. We will consider whether further action is required based on the information collected .”

Gracie announced her resignation in an explosive open letter that was published on her website on Sunday. She accused the BBC of violating pay laws and said she did not trust management to deal with gender inequality.

The journalist, who has worked for the BBC for 30 years, said the corporation had offered to increased her pay from PS135, 000 a year to PS180, 000 but she refused because it did not guaranty her equality with its other international editors. Jon Sopel, the BBC’s North America editor, collects between PS200, 000 to PS249, 999.

The corporation also became embroiled in a censorship row on Monday after it emerged that journalists who tweeted support for Gracie were blocked from presenting on-air segments about the pay row.

Dozens of the biggest names at the BBC, including Today presenter Mishal Husain and Newsnight host Evan Davis, backed Gracie on social media after her letter was published. Many use the hashtag #istandwithcarrie.

More than 130 female employees at the BBC signed a statement conveying their “wholehearted” support for Gracie and calling for action to ensure equal pay for equal jobs.

However, editors at the BBC moved to enforce its editorial guidelines by stopping journalists reporting on the issue if they had supported Gracie or have been campaigning for pay equality.

The BBC said:” Where a presenter or reporter has publicly expressed a position on a particular issue, they would no longer be perceived as an impartial voice, therefore it is right they do not conduct interviews on that issue. This is in keeping with editorial guidelines .”

The City lawyer advising Gracie said she and other female BBC staff could sue if the corporation failed to deal with the pay gap internally. Gracie had a grievance hearing in November but is yet to hear the result so concluded that” enough was enough” and resigned.

Jennifer Millins, job partner at Mishcon de Reya, is advising more than 10 senior women at the BBC. She said:” They don’t feel their complaints are being dealt with in a meaningful route. The process has taken a very long time. If the BBC does not resolve this internally, then individuals will be forced to sue .”

Asked what the chances were of the BBC resolving the issue internally, Millins said: “Low.”

Up to 200 women at the BBC have made a formal complaint about pay. This includes a collective grievance lodged on behalf of 121 women by the National Union of Journalists.

Michelle Stanistreet, the secretary-general of the united nations of the NUJ, said:” Carrie is one of many women at the BBC who are not being paid equally compared to male journalists doing the same jobs or work of equal value.

” The initial shock that many women felt was accompanied by said that he hoped the BBC would do the right thing- this has been replaced by a mounting sense of indignation and frustration that a swifter resolution has not been reached to this scourge of unequal pay at our public service broadcaster .”

The pay row began last summer when the BBC published a list of its top-earning starrings, which revealed that merely a third were women and the top seven were all men.

In response to heavy criticism, the BBC published a series of pay reviews and audits in October that concluded that men were being paid 9.3% more than women on average- less than the UK median of 18. 1%- but that there is” no systemic discrimination against females “.

However, this judge-led review did not include the vast majority of on-air presenters, editors and senior managers, sparking annoyance among women at the BBC. The review also found that in about one in ten cases where there was substantial change in pay between men and women doing similar jobs there was no clear reason for the gap other than gender and it did not rule in individual cases of discrimination.

The row is likely to take a further twist when the BBC publishes a highly-anticipated report by accountancy firm PwC into the pay of on-air staff, which is expected within the next couple of weeks. BBC insiders say this will analyse whether there are differences in pay and that the corporation will” stand by the judgements be they helpful or unhelpful “.

However, Millins said:” I suspect day and fund is being thrown at it[ research reports] but whether it will be significant is another matter .”

In response to the EHRC’s intervention, a BBC spokesperson said:” The BBC was one of the first to publish a gender pay report demonstrating we are significantly better than national median. We have already published an independent judge result equal pay report for rank and file faculty, which proved no systemic discrimination.

” Also a PwC led report on presenter pay will be published shortly and people will be able to stimulate informed judgements on that report and how we act on it .”

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