Deborah Miller: BBC salaries shine spotlight on gender pay

The BBC's annual report and accounts made for some interesting reading; not least because of the gender pay gap they revealed.

Is Chris Evans worth four times as much as Claudia Winkleman? Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

But with the gender pay gap reporting regulations now in force, the BBC might not be the only large employer facing scrutiny in relation to its gender pay gap.

They say watching too much TV gives you square eyes. Well, the media’s eyes were squarely on the BBC’s annual report, and in particular the annex to it that listed the salary figures for those earning more than £150,000.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

MacRoberts employment law partner Deborah Miller. Picture: Contributed

It revealed that Chris Evans was the highest-paid BBC employee, receiving the modest sum of £2.2 million to £2.5m in the financial year 2016/17.

Perhaps more interestingly, however, was the fact that this was more than four times the amount earned by the highest-paid female employee, Claudia Winkleman, who earned £450,000 to £500,000 in the same year.

Gary Lineker was paid between £1.75m and £1.8m and Graham Norton earned between £850,000 and £900,000. In fact, the top seven earners were male and only a third of those who earned more than £150,000 were female.

MacRoberts employment law partner Deborah Miller. Picture: Contributed

Of course, gender pay inequality is not new and it’s certainly not unique to the BBC. The law has been trying to deal with inequality in pay between the sexes since 1970, with the Equal Pay Act. Gender pay gap reporting is the government’s latest attempt to deal with inequality in pay.

The Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 apply to employers in the private and voluntary sector with a headcount of 250 or more (with a separate but very similar regime applying to employers in the public sector).

The first reports are to be published before 4 April 2018, based on data to 5 April 2017, and so relevant employers should already be preparing their reports.

The regulations do give employers the option to include a narrative with their report to explain the reasons for the results and give details about actions that are being taken to reduce or eliminate the gender pay gap. The narrative might provide employers with an opportunity to attempt to mitigate any reputational damage that the report might cause. Indeed, Tony Hall, the BBC’s director-general, has made a commitment to close its gender pay gap by 2020.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that men are paid more than women at the BBC and so contrary to what A-ha might have us believe, perhaps the sun doesn’t always shine on TV; not for gender pay equality at least.

• Deborah Miller is an employment partner at law firm MacRoberts