A group of 170 women at the BBC have called for an apology, back pay and pension adjustments over claims that the corporation broke equality laws by failing to pay them fairly.
In a ratcheting-up of the criticism of the broadcaster by female staff, the BBC Women campaign group has submitted evidence to the influential DCMS committee that they said demonstrated the corporation’s failure to ensure equal pay.
The 14 examples they provided included cases of women being paid less than men for the same job and being on inferior contracts without benefits such as sick pay or maternity leave.
Eleanor Bradford, BBC Scotland’s health correspondent from 2001-2016, said that she received a pay rise only when she cited equal pay legislation and was still “around £10,000 below some male colleagues who were doing identical correspondent jobs”.
An unnamed national radio presenter said a manager had told her that “the BBC doesn’t do equal pay” and that she was being “aggressive” for raising the subject.
The written evidence also mentions threats made to female staff over the subject of equal pay. It reads: “While individual BBC managers have been supportive there is still a bunker mentality in some quarters and women have experienced veiled threats made against them when they raised the subject of equal pay.”
The cases presented by BBC Women are published as the BBC attempts to draw a line under the equal pay crisis by revealing a new “transparent” pay policy for presenters and journalists.
In the overhaul of the BBC’s pay framework, to be announced on Tuesday, the BBC will admit that it has made mistakes in the way it paid some presenters in the past. But it will deny that there are problems at all levels of the corporation and insist that it has not broken equality laws. Early on Tuesday, the broadcaster proposed a £320,000 pay cap for its news presenters.
While the BBC’s admission and the introduction of a new pay policy will be welcomed, BBC Women are pressing the broadcaster for an apology and to immediately agree to an independent arbitration to settle a wave of individual cases on equal pay.
The National Union of Journalists is leading a collective grievance on behalf of more than 120 employees, while City law firm Mishcon de Reya is representing more than 10 senior women at the BBC, including former China editor Carrie Gracie. These cases could end up at an employment tribunal or the high court if they are not settled by the BBC.
The BBC has faced heavy criticism over equal pay since it revealed last summer that two-thirds of its best-paid stars were men. The pressure on the broadcaster increased earlier this month when Gracie resigned as China editor earlier this month in protest at its “secretive and illegal” pay culture.
The BBC will respond on Tuesday by publishing an audit of the pay of its stars by the accountancy firm PwC and a set of proposals designed to respond to the issues raised by the report. It will then run a consultation with its staff on the proposals before they are reviewed by a QC.
A BBC source said its proposals would represent a “wide-ranging and significant overhaul of how we manage on-air pay”, introducing a new framework, and that the broadcaster was at “the vanguard of wider change”.
They added: “That framework will have transparency at its heart. It will enable presenters to know where they stand and ensure they have knowledge about their pay relative to others. It will be rooted in fairness and equality. Alongside that, it will be informed by data and analysis.”
The source said that the BBC was also “working hard” to address issues that a number of male and female staff had raised about their individual pay.
The evidence submitted to MPs on the DCMS select committee ahead of a hearing on Wednesday shows how serious these issues are. The BBC Women group, which includes high-profile presenters such as Jane Garvey, Mishal Husain and Victoria Derbyshire, has accused the corporation of “perpetuating a longstanding breach of its stated values of trust, transparency and accountability”.
They said: “We believe the BBC can put these matters right by admitting the problem, apologising and setting in place an equal, fair and transparent pay structure.
“The BBC should avoid wasting licence fee money on an unwinnable court fight against their female workers over equal pay and immediately agree to independent arbitration to settle individual cases, including back pay and pension adjustments.”
Damian Collins, chairman of the DCMS committee, said: “Whilst a few big names on high salaries have been the focus of media attention in recent weeks, we are concerned to see evidence suggesting a much deeper cultural problem exists.”
A BBC spokesman denied that the broadcaster was in breach of the Equality Act. They said: “The BBC is committed to equal pay, and we don’t accept the assertion we have not been complying with the Equality Act, nor do we offer inferior contracts based on someone’s gender or race.
“We employ people in a wide variety of different ways, from fully employed to freelancer, often to suit the individual, and different types of contracts come with different benefits.”