Continuing litigation on equal pay – Samira Ahmed v BBC 


Just when you thought that unequal pay can be casted as an issue of historic importance, three recent cases showcase the reality that this is a much deeper and on-going problem than initially envisaged, and one on which big corporations do not have a proper handle. The latest lawsuit features a BBC news reporter Samira Ahmed against her employer, the BBC, where she alleged that she was paid less than Jeremy Vine, even though they were carrying out equal work. 

The points of comparison were Samira Ahmed's show ('Newswatch') and Jeremy Vine's show ('Points of View').  The employment tribunal was not convinced by the BBC's argument that Jeremy Vine's show had a higher profile and greater audience recognition than Samira Ahmed's show which could justify the difference in pay and considered that these factors were irrelevant to considering whether they were carrying out equal work. 

The BBC failed to establish a material factor defence (which would be that the difference in pay was caused by some factor other than sex). It did not help that the BBC did not have a transparent and consistent process for evaluating and determining pay for its on-air talent and no records of how the pay had been determined for Ms Ahmed and Mr Vine. 

Not the only show in town 

Almost at the same time as the decision of the Ahmed case, there was news that Sarah Montague, another BBC employee, settled her equal pay claim against the BBC for £400,000 and an apology. This was an out-of-court settlement and so there was no tribunal judgment to show for it, but, nevertheless, it illustrates an on-going issue for the BBC and for the wider corporate world. 

Ms Montague's case was that she was paid less than her co-host John Humphreys on Radio 4's 'Today' programme. Although she was promised that she could win a lot more had she taken the matter to the tribunal, she decided to opt for recognition of the issue over financial reward. 

Now 'TalkTalk' in equal pay row with former manager 

Rebecca Burke, who formerly worked for TalkTalk before she was made redundant in 2017 is bringing an equal pay claim against her former employer on the grounds that she was earning 40% less than her male counterparts. This is being fought in the London Central Employment Tribunal. To succeed, she will have to persuade the tribunal that her male counterparts were carrying out 'like work'. The case is on-going and we will bring you an update to the case in later instalments of our Up-to-Date.  

Comment

Equal pay can be a difficult practical issue for employers.  It is best to keep pay information of all staff under constant review, and make sure that if any disparity of pay is observed among those who carry out equal work then to review and take appropriate steps to reduce the risk of an equal pay claim.  

To read this case, please click here.

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Sungjin Park

Sungjin Park

Knowledge Lawyer, Employment
London

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