• International Workplace
  • 16 January 2020

BBC presenter wins equal pay case

BBC television presenter Samira Ahmed has won her case against the broadcaster for sex discrimination, following the discovery that a colleague in an equal position was being paid substantially more than her.

The judgement against the BBC, given at the London Central Employment Tribunal, was unanimous.  Ahmed stated: “No woman wants to have to take action against their own employer. I love working for the BBC. I’m glad it’s been resolved.”

Ahmed was, from 2008 to 2018, presenting the programme Newswatch, earning £440 per episode. Meanwhile, colleague Jeremy Vine, presenting Points of View, was earning £3,000 per episode – more than six times what Ahmed was earning for similar work. 

Included in the BBC’s defence was that Vine had a greater public profile and audience recognition than Ahmed, and even that Vine had a ‘glint in the eye’ and other skills specifically requited to present Points of View.

These arguments were dismissed; Judge H Grewal stated: “We had difficulty in understanding what the respondent meant by a ‘glint in the eye’ and how that translated into a ‘skill’ or ‘experience’ to do a job.”

As a result, it was concluded that the two presenters’ work was the same or very similar.

A spokesperson for the BBC said: “We’re committed to equality and equal pay. 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 [Ahmed] and [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.”

The case follows legislation published in 2017 that requires employers with 250 or more employees to publish statutory calculations every year showing how large the pay gap is between their male and female employees. 

Reporting may show, for example, that on average men earn 9% more pay per hour than women, that men earn 5% more in bonuses per year than women, or that the lowest paid quarter of the workforce is mostly female. These results must be published on the employer’s own website and a government site. This means that the gender pay gap will be publicly available, including to customers, employees and potential future recruits. 

As a result, employers should consider taking new or faster actions to reduce or eliminate their gender pay gaps.

As part of her case, Ahmed claimed that she was entitled to around £700,000 in lost earnings. However, no ruling was made on this. The BBC and Ahmed will now work to resolve the issue of lost earnings privately. 

The BBC concluded: “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.”