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A Reminder of the Need for Transparent Processes of Determining Pay: Samira Ahmed Wins Equal Pay Claim Against the BBC

Samira Ahmed is the presenter of the BBC programme Newswatch, a 15 minute TV programme which focuses around discussion, debate and viewer opinion. She has presented this programme since 1 October 2012 and has worked for the BBC since the 1990s. For Ms Ahmed’s work on Newswatch, she was paid £440 per episode.

Jeremy Vine is the presenter of the BBC programme Points of View, a 15 minute TV programme involving viewer opinion, discussion and debate. Mr Vine has presented the programme since 2008 and he too started working for the BBC in the 1990s. For Mr Vine’s work on Points of View, he was paid £3,000 per episode.

This is the comparative information relied on by Ms Ahmed which led to her success at the London Central Employment Tribunal recently, where it was determined that Ms Ahmed’s work was the same or very similar to Mr Vine’s and the BBC were unable to show that this was the result of a material factor other than their difference in sex.

The factors on which the BBC sought to rely on to justify the difference in pay of the presenters were:

  1. The difference in the profile of the TV programmes;
  2. The difference in the public profile of the presenters;
  3. The difference in the experience of the presenters;
  4. The difference in the market rate payable for the presenters;
  5. ‘Specific market pressures’, being that a rival broadcaster had made an offer to Mr Vine; and
  6. The difference in how the presenters were engaged with the BBC - Ms Ahmed was engaged on a standard employment contract and Mr Vine on a freelance basis (through a personal service company).

The Tribunal found that none of the above factors applied between 1 October 2012 and 30 September 2018. Of particular interest to the Tribunal was the fact that Mr Vine did not actually have the option to work elsewhere should he have wanted to as he had been contracted to work exclusively for the BBC for a period of 3 years at the time his pay was negotiated. Mr Vine’s level of pay was therefore deemed to be unnecessary to secure his services.

On 1 October 2018 Ms Ahmed was engaged on a permanent contract with the BBC. The Tribunal held that any difference in pay from this date forwards was the result of a non-discriminatory factor.

As a result of the Tribunal’s decision, the BBC could now be liable to pay Ms Ahmed up to £700,000 in compensation. This is a first-tier Tribunal decision and it is not yet known whether the BBC will lodge an appeal.

It is imperative for employers to ensure that they have transparent and objective processes for determining pay which are clearly documented in order to ensure that they comply with their legal obligations.

This bulletin is for general guidance only and should not be used for any other purpose. It does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as legal advice.

JMW Solicitors is a Limited Liability Partnership.

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