BBC making progress on gender pay gap says NAO

Mark Johnson's picture
by Mark Johnson

The BBC is making good progress in its efforts to improve pay transparency and gender equality, the National Audit Office has said.

In a report published today, the NAO said the BBC has taken significant steps to improve the consistency, transparency and fairness of its staff pay and working practices, and is well ahead of other organisations on pay transparency and the gender pay gap. 

However, it cautioned that the publicly-funded broadcaster now needs to ensure it has stronger oversight of its costs at the top of the organisation.

“The BBC has made some extensive reforms to its staff pay-bill and is now well ahead of other organisations with regards to pay transparency and the gender pay gap”, said Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO. 

“However, these positive developments would be reinforced by a visible cycle of oversight and challenge by the Board, which we did not find to be clearly evidenced”.

The BBC responded to the report saying it welcomed the NAO's findings.

"We are pleased that the NAO recognises that the BBC is "well ahead of other organisations with regards to pay transparency", which is consistent with the findings from the two recent independent reviews published earlier this year", the broadcaster said.

"The BBC is leading the media industry in respect of the gender pay gap. The NAO report also finds that "the BBC’s gender pay gap compares well to other media organisations" and "is lower than the national average and most other media organisations".

In recent years there has been a lack of confidence in BBC pay policies and the fairness of its practices and in 2017, the NAO reported on workforce management.

Wide ranging reforms

“The BBC undertook a series of wide-ranging reforms between 2015 and 2018 to standardise and simplify its workforce management for public service broadcasting (PSB) employees. 

“This has improved consistency in job structures and pay, and terms of employment.”

From 2016, the BBC has developed a new job framework for staff, including senior managers. 5,000 job titles were grouped into 600 jobs across six pay bands. 

This was a considerable achievement to move away from managers having discretion over pay and allowances, to establishing a centrally controlled, benchmarked and market-informed approach. 

The framework has resulted in nine per cent of public service broadcasting staff being in jobs with pay ranges higher than the market median, which the BBC believes is important to attract ‘in-demand’ skills that command high salaries, for example in digital roles. 

For remaining staff, 87 per cent are in jobs with pay ranges in line with the market median and four per cent have pay ranges lower than the market median.

While reducing costs was not a driving factor for the BBC’s reforms it does expect to see a net saving of £4.9 million over seven years. 

Gender pay gap narrows

The NAO also said the BBC had set itself a challenging gender pay gap of plus or minus three per cent by 2020. Staff have been given the opportunity to raise concerns about past pay and the BBC has concluded the majority of queries. 

The BBC has narrowed its gender pay gap from a median of 9.3 per cent in 2017 to 7.6 per cent in 2018, which compares favourably to other media organisations.  

The BBC has improved its transparency in relation to pay, both internally and externally and has been noted in two independent reviews as among the UK leaders in pay transparency, the NAO noted. 

Since 2017, it has published the salaries of all senior managers and on-air staff and freelancers earning over £150,000 in PSB in £10,000 bands and, from the next annual report, in £5,000 bands. 

The BBC also publishes the ratio of both the Director General’s and executive directors’ earnings to BBC staff median earnings and its pay gaps for other characteristics, including race, disability and part/full-time staff.

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