BBC Equal Pay issue hits headlines again – but should it?

The BBC’s ongoing gender pay row has hit headlines again this week after it emerged that deputy editor Karen Martin was given a job offer at £12,000 a year less than her fellow candidate Roger Sawyer.  Karen Martin reportedly plans to turn down the role, although after requesting the BBC to reconsider its offer, Karen Martin claims the BBC offered an increased salary on the grounds of historical under payments, which reduced the pay gap to £7,000, however she said the issue was “never been about the actual salary… but about equal pay”.  

The publicity surrounding this is seeing the beleagured corporation hitting headlines for all the wrong reasons again.  However, it is important to understand that when it comes to equal pay, the employer needs to consider factors other than gender differences – which could mean that different pay for doing the same job is appropriate.

The BBC’s head of news output Gavin Allen was quick to defend the BBC, explaining:

“We took into account the fact that Roger has worked at or above this level for several years, whereas Karen was offered this role as a promotion, with a significant pay increase.  We think most people would understand that these factors would result in some difference between their individual pay.”

Allen said he believed the BBC’s principles on fair pay were followed and that the difference was appropriate.  He added:

“I accept that we have not always got things right in the past on pay but I believe this is not one of those cases.”

We spoke to Reward Consultant Rameez Kaleem, Director of 3R Strategy and asked for his thoughts.  Rameez explains:

“Indeed the BBC has not always got equal pay right and this was highlighted by the very public resignation of Carrie Grace, which also saw the broadcaster paying back pay.

“However, it is also unfair to ignore the experience and additional skills an individual candidate brings to the role. Equal pay does not mean everyone in a similar job should be paid exactly the same salary regardless of their skills, experience and contribution.  

 Rameez believes that an equal pay audit delivers a sound basis for employers to both reward their staff and defend any claims of bias, saying.

“Here, we only have a news report and not all the facts, however this does highlight how important it is for organisations to get pay right and assess any equal pay risks.

“Once a widely reported issue surrounding unfair pay arises, subsequent allegations will hit the headlines even where there is little evidence to support a claim of bias.”