The employment tribunal judgment made against the BBC is likely to have “wider ramifications” for the industry, an employment lawyer has said.
Jennifer Millins, a partner from law firm Mishcon de Reya, said that following the ruling in favour of Samira Ahmed, “women across all industries who believe they are not receiving equal pay may look to this case and its result and decide to take action”.
Her comments follow a “unanimous judgment” published on Friday by a tribunal in London which found that Newswatch presenter Ahmed should have been paid the same as fellow presenter Jeremy Vine.
Millins said: “This is the first high-profile judgment against the BBC relating to equal pay since their ‘high earners’ list was published in 2017. It is unlikely to be the last.
“Complaints have been raised by women at all levels of the organisation and in November last year the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – having launched an investigation into the BBC which is due to conclude this spring – stated their suspicion that ‘some women at the organisation have not received equal pay for equal work’.
“There is likely to be wider ramifications, too, as women across all industries who believe they are not receiving equal pay may look to this case and its result and decide to take action.”
Ms Millins, who represented Carrie Gracie in her equal pay dispute with the BBC, added: “What trailblazers like Samira Ahmed and my client Carrie Gracie are showing and have shown is that no matter how large and complex an organisation is, that organisation can still be held to account if they are not paying women and men equal pay for equal work.”
Gracie resigned from her position as China editor in January 2018 in protest at pay inequalities at the broadcaster.
Employment lawyer Juliette Franklin, from Slater and Gordon, described the ruling as a “landmark win” and one which she said will “no doubt resonate with other female BBC employees who feel their pay, in essence, may be discriminatory”.
“Hopefully this win will empower them to challenge their employer if they feel they are being underpaid.
“It remains to be seen if the BBC will appeal the decision or if others will use this judgment to follow suit, but this certainly could be the start of a challenging time for the company, in relation to equal pay.
“Once the award amount is finalised, the employee is usually entitled to receive the payment in one lump sum. Split payments only occur if the company are not in a position to pay in one go, for example financial reason.
“This situation is not one that is likely to be relevant to the BBC.”
The BBC said in a statement that it was committed to “equality and equal pay”.
It added: “Where we’ve found equal pay cases in the past we’ve put them right. However, for us, this case was never about one person, but the way different types of programmes across the media industry attract different levels of pay.
“We have always believed that the pay of Samira and Jeremy Vine was not determined by their gender. Presenters – female as well as male – had always been paid more on Points Of View than Newswatch.
“We’re sorry the tribunal didn’t think the BBC provided enough evidence about specific decisions – we weren’t able to call people who made decisions as far back as 2008 and have long since left the BBC.
“In the past, our pay framework was not transparent and fair enough, and we have made significant changes to address that; we’re glad this satisfied the tribunal that there was sufficient evidence to explain her pay now.
“We’ll need to consider this judgment carefully. We know tribunals are never a pleasant experience for anyone involved. We want to work together with Samira to move on in a positive way.”