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Equal Pay in the news

Equal Pay recently came to the fore again with the recent successful claim brought by TV presenter Samira Ahmed against the BBC.

An Employment Tribunal in Central London found that Ms Ahmed, who presents the Newswatch programme, was doing work of equal value to Jeremy Vine, the presenter of Points of View.

Despite their work being broadly similar, Ms Ahmed was only paid £440 an episode, to Mr Vine’s £3,000. Ms Ahmed’s total claim was therefore for almost £700,000 in back pay.

Although the BBC defended the claim, they failed to show that there was any difference in their work (despite referring to a glint in Mr Vine’s eye and his ability to be cheeky) or that the difference in pay was because of a material factor which did not involve sex discrimination.

They have now decided not to appeal the Tribunal decision and have instead reached an undisclosed financial settlement with Ms Ahmed. This will undoubtedly give hope to other women seeking back pay from the Corporation.

Generally, the number of equal pay claims has tended to decline in the past few years. In 2008, for instance, there were more than 60,000 claims presented, while 10 years later there were just over 38,000.

Equal pay became law with the introduction of the Equal Pay Act in 1970 and is now part of the 2010 Equality Act.

Under the law, both men and women have the right to receive equal pay for:

  • Doing the same or similar work
  • Doing work rated as “equivalent “
  • Doing work of equal value

Pay includes wages and all contractual benefits such as performance-related pay, overtime and pension. The right to equal pay applies to employees and to workers, whether full-time, part-time or temporary, regardless of length of service.

To succeed with an equal pay claim the claimant must have a comparator of the opposite sex and they must have the same employer.

Basically, an employer can defend a difference in pay between men and women, by showing that the difference came about through a material factor which did not involve sex discrimination, such as their experience or market forces.

In the Ahmed case, the BBC argued that the profile of the two programmes and the presenters justified the difference, but were unable to show that this was taken into account when determining the pay of the presenters.

The Tribunal also found that even if they had considered the two programmes, there was no substantial difference in audience figures or any evidence produced that presenters of more established programmes were paid more than those of newer programmes.

In short, the material factors the BBC relied upon could not be shown to have been the reason for the difference in pay.

The Ahmed case has not changed the way in which the law of equal pay is applied.  It has, however, provided an important reminder to employers that to avoid equal pay disputes, they should ensure that a transparent and clear process is in place for determining pay.