The BBC has written its own headlines with the revealing of the salaries it pays to its stars, with its highest earners including household names such as Gary Lineker, Chris Evans, Jeremy Vine and Graham Norton. Does anything strike you as odd about this list? Aside from the uncomfortableness the BBC was trying to avoid by revealing such sensitive information, it had maybe not anticipated that a rather concerning gender pay gap would also be thrust into the limelight. News reports quickly picked up that only two of the top ten earners are women and, for example, a list of female newsreaders were all paid less than male newsreaders with similar experience to their female counterparts, for evidently doing a similar job to them.
While you may be correct in thinking that the BBC has little in common with your own organisation, you may wish to consider the gender pay gap issue a little further. The legal position is that only organisations with 250 or more employees should publish a report on their gender pay gap, that is, the gap between male and female employees’ earnings. However there is nothing to stop organisations with fewer employees publishing such a report, or at least internally investigating their position.
There are numerous potential benefits of doing so.……overall morale may be improved just from the fact that you’re keen to look into this and take action if appropriate. You may uncover a problem you didn’t know you had, in which case you can address it. Even if you can explain any gap, for example the higher salaries are earned by the senior men in the organisation, and the women have more junior roles in general, you should maybe consider why this is, and are you unintentionally discriminating against women in your recruitment or working practices, thus barring them from the most senior positions?
If you can show an absence of a gender pay gap, or that you have tackled and reduced any gap, this will assist your organisation’s reputation, whereas the opposite, as the BBC example shows, can do serious harm to your name in the wider community. Female employees have the right to bring an equal pay claim if they can show they have been, or are being, paid less than their male colleagues for doing “similar work of equal value”. The BBC are no doubt bracing themselves for such claims, however they haven’t been the only organisation in the news over recent years for this reason. Birmingham City Council and Asda are just two big names who have had to pay significant sums of money to female employees in back pay to retrospectively correct their salaries to bring them into line with male counterparts.