Case update | Samira Ahmed’s BBC equal pay case
A female television presenter has succeeded in her equal pay claim against the BBC. Her work on a Newswatch was similar to the work of Jeremy Vine on Points of View. The BBC was unable to show that the difference in pay was due to a factor not involving sex.
Samira Ahmed v BBC
Female television presenter Samira Ahmed has succeeded in her equal pay claim against the BBC.
She was paid £440 per episode for presenting Newswatch, a 15-minute programme which is a forum for discussion and debate of viewers’ opinions on BBC News. Mr Jeremy Vine was paid £3,000 per episode for presenting Points of View, a 15-minute programme which airs the views of the BBC’s audience on all BBC programmes.
The tribunal found that the work that Ms Ahmed and Mr Vine did in presenting their respective programmes was the same or, if not, very similar. The producers decided on the content of the programmes and prepared the scripts. Any differences between the programmes were minor and had neither any impact on the work the two presenters did nor the skills and experience required to do that work.
The BBC relied on a number of factors to defend the difference in pay, including the profile of the two programmes, the profiles of the two presenters, their broadcasting range and experience and alleged differences in market rates and pressures. Primarily due to deficiencies in much of the BBC’s evidence, the tribunal found that none of these factors explained the difference in pay between the two presenters. Mr Vine’s pay was negotiated after he had signed a deal to work exclusively for the BBC. The high rate of pay was not, therefore, needed to retain him because he did not have the option to work elsewhere. The tribunal also noted that “market rate” must mean the same in both cases; it applied to either the role or the person. The BBC’s evidence illustrated that it had paid Mr Vine what it felt was necessary to secure his services for Points of View, whereas Ms Ahmed had been paid the market rate for the role.
Ms Ahmed could now be awarded up to £700,000 in compensation.
Comment: The Tribunal’s decision has not changed Equal Pay law or how it is applied. However, it does starkly highlight the importance of transparency and evidence relating to the processes and decisions taken by an employer when setting pay.
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Justin Terry is an employment managing associate
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