The lawyer of former BBC editor Carrie Gracie has warned that unless the BBC makes radical equal pay reforms, it will erode the trust of staff, politicians, and the public.
Former China editor Gracie resigned in early 2018 over revelations her pay was drastically lower than US male counterpart Jon Sopel.
Her treatment led to allegations of pay inequality at the broadcaster, which was found to harbour an “invidious culture” of discrimination against women in a report in October last year.
A report published today by the same Digital Culture Media And Sport (DCMS) Committee has claimed that little has changed, and the BBC does not accept there is a systemic problem within the organisation.
Jennifer Millins, who represented Gracie during her pay dispute, has said that unless the BBC accepts and reforms its practices, trust in the old institution will be weakened.
She told the Press Association exclusively: “Unless the BBC radically rethinks its position, it will further erode the trust of Parliament, its workforce and the licence-fee paying public.
“As well as the individual legal claims that BBC employees can bring in the Employment Tribunal, the BBC will remain exposed to scrutiny by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and by the Government.”
The DCMS Committee report notes that the BBC refused to recognise a wider problem, and refuses to use the appropriate terminology for the problem, skirting around the term “equal pay”.
It added: “The BBC’s apparent refusal to properly grapple with the conclusions of the Select Committee’s report could be considered a breach of its public sector equality duty.”
Millins said: “The BBC’s ongoing failure to recognise the important distinctions between ‘fair pay’, ‘equal pay’ and the ‘gender pay gap’ can only exacerbate the frustration of the many BBC women still locked in protracted internal complaint procedures.
“Failure to provide equal pay is unlawful sex discrimination.
“The concept of ‘fair pay’ that the BBC insists on referring to in answer to allegations of discriminatory pay practices has no specific legal meaning. A ‘gender pay gap’ is a statistical measure used to assess the average pay for men and women across an organisation.
“Neither of these concepts addresses the very serious allegations of pay discrimination made by several hundred women at the BBC, or the DCMS Select Committee’s conclusion that the BBC has operated an unlawful pay practice. Equal pay is the employer’s legal duty to pay men and women the same for equal work.”
The Committee report claimed that women are paid “far less” than men based on evidence brought before it, and that the situation would be closely monitored by MPs.