Rise in equal pay claims against employers?

Under the requirements of the new Royal Charter and in a bid to make the BBC more transparent, a salary report from the BBC Remuneration Committee has been published this week. The report discloses the pay of all senior executives of the BBC who are paid more than £150,000. It is the first time that this information has been made public.

 The results have caused a media storm, provoked widespread debate and put the focus firmly on the gender pay gap and issues surrounding pay parity.

Stark statistics have been revealed: just one third of the names on the list are female – 62 men as opposed to 34 women; only two females are among the 14 highest paid; 7 males were paid more than the highest paid female, Claudia Winkleman, who took home just 20% of the salary of top paid male, Chris Evans; and, collectively, the top 4 male presenters were paid almost four times the total amount of the top 4 female presenters.

The results may not be completely surprising given historic issues surrounding equal pay and sex discrimination, but they serve to highlight a distinct lack of diversity among the top earners at the BBC.

This is not the first time that the gender pay gap has been shown in such a stark manner. In 2016, it hit the news hit that from 10 November 2016, women effectively stop earning until 31 December relative to men. This was only one day later than in 2015, showing that the gender pay gap is closing at a glacial pace.

Female stars will doubtless be concerned with the pay disparity among men and women, and may be considering legal action.

In terms of the legal position, under the Equality Act 2010, employers must give men and women equal pay if they are doing the same or equivalent work. This applies not only to salary, but to all contractual terms and conditions of employment, such as holiday entitlement, bonuses, pay and reward schemes, pension payments and other benefits.

The BBC statistics could lead to claims being submitted by females who feel that they have not received equal pay compared with their male counter parts. For example, if a female presenter on a show is being paid less than a male presenter doing the same job on the same show, then there are grounds for an equal pay claim in the Employment Tribunal. The employer would have to demonstrate that there was good reason, other than sex, to explain the difference in pay.

Equal pay claims can be made while an employee or worker is still in the job, or up to 6 months after termination. Claims are uncapped in terms of compensation and can go back for up to 6 years. The statistics could lead to sex discrimination claims being made, too. Sex discrimination claims are also uncapped in terms of compensation, but must generally be submitted within 3 months of the discriminatory act.

There is no doubt that the report has helped to increase awareness surrounding transparency of pay, but it is clear there is a lot more work to be done. By April 2018, all companies with more than 250 employees will have to publish their gender pay gap under a new legal requirement designed to stamp out workplace discrimination. Employers will have to publish figures regarding the following:

• Gender pay gap (mean and median averages);
• Gender bonus gap (mean and median averages);
• Proportion of men and women receiving bonuses; and
• Proportion of men and women in each quartile of the organisation’s pay structure.

The regulations will cover approximately 9,000 employers with over 15 million employees, which is nearly half of the UK’s workforce. The UK’s national gender pay gap is currently 18.1%. We expect to be seeing more and more pay reports being published over the next year, ahead of the April 2018 deadline. This could result in more equal pay and sex discrimination claims in the Tribunal.

Although it is not currently required by law, smaller companies are also being encouraged to consider reporting statistics on pay. Gathering and reviewing this data can help businesses take steps to close the gender pay gap and address any gender bias in the workplace.

Please get in touch with our employment team if you have any queries concerning equal pay, pay reporting or discrimination of any kind. Call either our London or High Wycombe offices on the telephones numbers referred to at the top of this page, or contact us by email: employment@curzongreen.co.uk