The BBC still faces dozens of potentially costly pay disputes from staff members, suggesting the pay crisis that has dogged the public broadcaster for several years is yet to be resolved.
New data, released under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed that eight staff members are continuing to dispute their pay and have lodged claims with the employment tribunal. Another 38 are being heard internally by the broadcaster’s grievance process.
The details were disclosed on the same day the broadcaster revealed it would not be lodging an appeal against the employment tribunal ruling, which found the public broadcaster had not being paying Newswatch presenter Samira Ahmed fairly.
Ms Ahmed won a landmark equal pay case last month, with an employment tribunal ruling the BBC was unable to properly explain why she was being paid seven-times less than her fellow presenter Jeremy Vine for what should have been considered “equal work”.
The presenter argued she was owed up to £700,000 in back pay. The BBC did not reveal the amount of money it had paid to settle Ms Ahmed’s claim.
On Monday, the BBC, Ms Ahmed and the National Union of Journalists released a joint statement which said the parties had reached a settlement, which would see the journalist continue her hosting work at the BBC.
“Samira is a highly valued BBC presenter and now these matters have been concluded we all want to focus on the future,” the joint statement said. “We look forward to continuing to work together to make great programmes for audiences.”
Merrill April, a partner at employment firm CM Murray, said the BBC could be exposed to paying “significant” sums to resolve equal pay cases.
“It is clear that righting the wrongs of the past at the BBC is an ongoing process. Samira Ahmed’s case does not set a precedent in the strict sense as it is a fact-based decision of the tribunal, however, in equal pay cases awards for back pay can be significant.”
With the BBC under growing political pressure from Boris Johnson’s government over its licence fee funding model, the pay crisis is an unwanted distraction for the broadcaster as it seeks a new director-general to take over from the departing Tony Hall later this year.
The gender pay gap at the BBC was revealed in 2017 when the broadcaster was forced to publicly disclose for the first time the salaries of its highest paid on-air talent.
BBC staff, many supported by a female-support network called BBC Women, have been arguing with the public broadcaster over pay disparities ever since. In 2018, journalist Carrie Gracie resigned as China editor over a pay dispute and alleged the BBC operated a “secretive and illegal pay culture”.
Responding to the Freedom of Information disclosure about the 38 outstanding cases on pay, the BBC said: “We continue to try to engage with our staff to resolve a small number of outstanding cases. However, mindful of our obligations to the licence fee payer, we will robustly defend our position at tribunal if necessary.”
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