The BBC presenter Samira Ahmed has won her claim for equal pay at the employment tribunal. She successfully claimed that Jeremy Vine was an appropriate comparator for her pay. She is not the only female presenter to make a claim with over 50 more claims under consideration at present. Assuming that these are all successful, will these have any effect on the BBC’s gender pay gap for 2019 of 7p in the pound?
Key facts about Samira’s equal pay claim.
You can read the full judgement here but here are the key points I’ve taken out of it.
- This was a relatively easy win for Samira. The facts clearly showed that she and Jeremy were doing the same work for presenting their respective programs “Newswatch” & “Points of View”.
- Samira was being paid £440 per program whilst Jeremy was being paid £3000 per program. Around the time Jeremy decided to stop presenting POV, his pay had been cut to £1500 per program.
- Since they were doing the same work, the burden of proof shifts to the BBC to justify the pay differential.
- Due to the rather chaotic systems the BBC had for determining pay back in 2008 for Jeremy and 2012 for Samira, they didn’t come close to being able to justify the differential.
- Therefore the law requires the tribunal to conclude that the difference in pay is due to gender.
- As an example of how chaotic it was, the tribunal was unable to find out what Jeremy’s POV predecessor (Terry Wogan) had been paid with suggested numbers varying between £1500 & £3000 per program.
The BBC’s Gender Pay Gap
If you download my gender pay gap spreadsheet and look up British Broadcasting Corporation you will get the following chart for their 2019 submission. The BBC employ 5000 to 19999 staff of which 45% are women. For every £1 earned by the median man, the median woman earned 93p.
If you have been reading my blogs on pay gaps you should by now know what I mean by the median man and median woman. If not, it is simply the man and woman standing in the middle of their respective lines when men and women line up separately in order of their hourly earnings as shown in this graphic.
What is often overlooked with the median is that regardless of how many employees an employer has, their pay gap is only dependent on two employees. It does not matter how employees who earn more than the median man and median woman are paid, the median gender pay gap only depends on these two employees.
So if the BBC is heavily biased against female presenters who earn more than the median woman, all they have to do is pay these presenters 1p an hour more than the median woman whilst paying their favoured male presenters hundreds of pounds more an hour than the median man. In effect, change the hourly earnings to look like this graphic which is very different from the first graphic but the median gender pay gaps are identical!
Are female presenters likely to be paid more or less than the median woman at the BBC? I think the answer is obvious, they are paid more than the median woman and are almost certainly in the upper income quarter of the organisation. So if Samira’s other colleagues also win their equal pay case and they see their pay revised upwards, the effect on the median woman’s hourly earnings will be precisely zero.
Unequal pay has no effect on gender pay gaps
This is yet another illustration of a point that I have repeatedly made, namely that unequal pay has nothing to do with gender pay gaps. If you stop and think about it, who has the financial resources to sustain a legal challenge for equal pay at an employment tribunal? It’s most likely to be high earners in the first place, certainly those earning more than the median salary which means that even if those cases succeed, the pay gap is not going to change. At most it will shift some women from the upper middle income quarter to the upper income quarter and therefore rebalance the income quarters a bit but nothing more than that.
You might argue though that resolution of equal pay cases would affect the average women’s earnings and therefore close the mean gender pay gap. That is correct but statisticians recommend that more attention is given to the median gender pay gap since the mean pay gap is too easily distorted by high earners. Premier league football clubs are an excellent example where a squad of 25 millionaires completely dominate the average and change what are typically median pay gaps of zero into gigantic mean pay gaps. That is not to say that mean pay gaps are worthless, just that more attention is paid to the median pay gap.
Winning Equal Pay tribunals can widen the Gender Pay Gap!
Would you believe me if I were to tell you that far from closing a gender pay gap, winning an equal pay case at an employment tribunal could actually have the opposite effect of widening the gender pay gap? Take a moment to think why this might be.
The reason why this might be the effect is that often when a women wins an equal pay case, she has often reached the end of road in trying to resolve the issue with their employer. Consequently, it is quite common for the women to have stopped working for the employer. What happens when these high earning women leave the employer?
The answer is that the median women changes because there are fewer women in the line. Since it is the high earning women that are more likely to leave, that means that the median woman shifts downwards. This is shown in the graphic here where the median woman is now the average of the 2nd & 3rd women which means the median woman now earns £12.50 an hour instead of £15 an hour compared to £20 an hour for the median man (4th man of the line) which is unchanged.
Counter-intuitive isn’t it! Yet another example of why you need to speak to a statistician if you want to understand what a gender pay gap is and isn’t telling you. In the meantime, if you hear someone mixing up the concept of equal pay and gender pay gap, please tell them off and point them towards my blogs.
The moral of this story is …
Make sure that equal pay cases do not arise in the first place! By the time it gets to an employment tribunal, it’s already too late and the end result is that your pay gap is likely to widen and you will have to contend with the negative publicity as well. Get ahead of the game by carrying out an Equal Pay Audit which is something I can help you with.
– Need help with interpreting your pay gaps? –
I offer the following services.
- Analytics – I can dig deep into your data to identify the key drivers of your pay gaps. I can build a model using a large number of variables such as pay band, seniority, job function, location, etc and use this to identify the priority areas for closing your gaps.
- Training – I run training courses in basic statistics which are designed for non-statisticians such as people working in HR. The courses will show you how to perform the relevant calculations in Microsoft Excel, how to interpret what they mean for you and how to incorporate these in an action plan to close your gaps.
- Expert Witness – Has your gender pay gap data uncovered an issue resulting in legal action? Need an expert independent statistician who can testify whether the data supports or contradicts a claim of discrimination? I have experience of acting as an expert witness for either plaintiff or defendant and I know how to testify and explain complex data in simple language that can be easily understood by non-statisticians as can be seen from my testimony to the Treasury Select Committee.
If you would like to have a no-obligation discussion about how I can help you, please do contact me.
– Want to know more about pay gaps? –
I have written a number of articles about pay gaps covering these topics:-
- What gender pay gap data tells us, what it doesn’t tell us and how it can be misused
- Why the gender pay gap is not the same as unequal pay
- Three distinct errors that have been made by at least 10% of all organisations when submitting their gender pay gap data
- How to distinguish between a true pay gap and a pay gap that arises naturally due to the laws of chance
- My 12 steps to improve public confidence in gender pay gap data
- My evidence to the Treasury Select Committee on how gender pay gap reporting could be improved
- Calculate your gender pay gap by downloading my free spreadsheet calculator!
- Did the gender pay gap narrow in 2018?
- How to identify unusual year on year changes in gender pay gaps
- How to close your pay gap with DMAIC
- Should the UK introduce Ethnicity Pay Gap reporting?
- What is best way to do Ethnicity Pay Gap reporting?
- Frequently Asked Questions about gender pay gaps.
Finally visit my Twitter thread to see my comments on gender pay gaps in the media. Some notable ones are here.