BBC gender pay gap: Equality Commission to look into Carrie Gracie's claims of 'unlawful discrimination'

Watchdog is to write to BBC requesting 'all relevant information' after ex-BBC China editor claimed there was a 'secretive and illegal' pay culture at the corporation

Adam Lusher
Tuesday 09 January 2018 11:00
Carrie Gracie on quitting the BBC over equal pay: There is a 'hunger for an equal, fair and transparent pay system'

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is to look into claims of unlawful pay discrimination at the BBC made by former China editor Carrie Gracie.

The watchdog has said it will write to the BBC requesting all relevant information from the corporation and then decide whether further action is required.

In her highly publicised resignation letter, Ms Gracie said she was stepping down from her China editor role in protest at a “secretive and illegal” gender pay gap at the BBC.

She later said she could not “stay silent and watch the BBC perpetuate a failing pay structure by discriminating against women.”

After her stand attracted widespread support, including from some other BBC presenters and journalists, the EHRC said it was aware of Ms Gracie's claims and would write to the corporation, "requiring them to provide us with information on their pay policy and the facts in this individual case".

The watchdog body added: "We will consider whether further action is required based on this information.

“Women have a legal right to equal pay with men for equal work."

In her resignation letter, Ms Gracie said she learned in July that of the four international editors in the past four years at the corporation, two men had earned more than their female counterparts.

Pay disclosures made by the BBC at the time showed that North America editor Jon Sopel was listed as having a salary of between £200,000 and £249,999, while Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen earned between £150,000 and £199,999. Europe editor Katya Adler did not make the list.

Ms Gracie said on Monday morning that she earned £135,000 as China editor, and was offered an increase of £45,000 when she complained about the discrepancy.

But she told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour: "I could not go back to China and collude knowingly in what I consider to be unlawful pay discrimination. I could not do it, nor could I stay silent and watch the BBC perpetuate a failing pay structure by discriminating against women."

Ms Gracie said she was willing to take a salary cut if the BBC chose to restructure pay scales to ensure fairness.

She said: "My pay is £135,000. The BBC offered to raise that to £180,000; however, I was not interested in more money. I was interested in equality and I kept saying to my managers that I didn't need more money, I just needed to be made equal and that can be done in a variety of ways."

The senior BBC journalist said her bosses have not contacted her since the story of the reasons for her resignation broke on Sunday.

She said: "No one has picked up the phone, no. Actually to be fair, one boss overnight just wanted to check I was okay for the Today Programme."

Ms Gracie, who has been with the BBC for 30 years and has led its China coverage since 2004, described the pay offer as a "divide-and-rule, botched solution".

A BBC spokesman said: "Fairness in pay is vital. A significant number of organisations have now published their gender pay figures showing that we are performing considerably better than many and are well below the national average."

He highlighted the broadcaster's independent judge-led pay audit for "rank-and-file" staff which showed "no systemic discrimination against women" and said a separate report for on-air staff would be published "in the not too distant future".

Up to 200 women at various levels of the organisation have made complaints about pay, according to BBC Women, a group of more than 150 broadcasters and producers.

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