Samira Ahmed's Employment Tribunal victory highlights need for equal pay audits

Commenting on Samira Ahmed's successful equal pay claim against the BBC, Carolyn Brown, employment legal partner and RSM's head of client legal services said: 

'The London Central Employment Tribunal has today decided that Jeremy Vine reading a pre-written script on autocue for Points of View and Samira Ahmed delivering the Newswatch programme were each doing “like work” for equal pay purposes. They rejected the BBC’s defence that Mr Vine being required to read his script with a “glint in the eye” had any greater value, since the script (and its accompanying stage directions) were written for him. They also thought it was “work of equal value” in terms of the respective demands on them. 

'The BBC’s lack of a transparent pay structure at the time their respective pay was set when each of them started working on their programmes meant the BBC could not produce cogent evidence to succeed in its defence that there was a material factor which justified the pay differential between them.

'As always in equal pay cases, the pay structures of both the claimant and Mr Vine as the comparator were laid bare as was the interesting fact that Ms Ahmed found out about their respective pay differential when Mr Vine telephoned her to tell her this.

'Ms Ahmed can now expect to be awarded six years’ pay differential, which was reported in the press to be around £700k, although another hearing will be required to decide that, unless the amount can now be agreed.

'In these circumstances it is compulsory for the Tribunal to order an employer to carry out an equal pay audit involving the publication of relevant gender pay information. This is required to identify any differences in pay between men and women and the reasons for those differences, to include the reasons for any potential equal pay breach identified by the audit and set out the employer’s plan to avoid breaches occurring or continuing. The employer must send its audit to the tribunal by a date the tribunal sets. Then, the tribunal must determine whether the audit is compliant. If it is, then the employer must publish the audit on its website and leave it there for three years. It must also tell everyone about whom gender pay information was included in the audit where they can obtain a copy.

'An employer who fails to carry out such an audit when required to do so might have to pay a penalty of up to £5,000 – rather modest in these circumstances or £10,000 if they are re-ordered to comply. 

'However if the employer has carried out a required form of equal pay audit in the three years preceding the date of the tribunal's judgment that it breached equal pay law this does not apply. The BBC has already publicised its own audit work in this area so developments here will be interesting. It would appear the BBC’s troubled equal pay saga will continue.

'Businesses in sectors with wide gender pay gaps should already be auditing their salary structures on a role by role basis to ensure that they have sufficient transparency in their pay-setting arrangements to justify any pay differentials between differing gender post-holders and that their documents trails to demonstrate this are robust.'