Written by Ciara Duggan and

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The BBC is facing an investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) amid complaints from female employees that they have not been paid the same as male colleagues for equal work. Exercising its powers under the Equality Act 2010, the EHRC will be investigating whether there was unlawful pay discrimination dating from 1 January 2016 to the date of their recent reforms.

These investigations are not out of the blue. The EHRC has been in discussions with the BBC for the past 12 months, during which time the BBC has handed over a large number of documents on its pay policies and practices, as well as detailing the programme for reform currently underway. Despite the changes, it appears that the EHRC has seen enough to suspect that some female employees were paid less than male counterparts for the same work.

Their investigation will examine several cases in which the BBC has addressed a pay complaint, including some that are currently ongoing, and consider a list of issues including whether there is a material reason for a difference in pay, the amount of managerial discretion in relation to pay, and their approach to pay grading. They will also assess whether the reforms the BBC has introduced go far enough to address their pay gap, looking into the approach taken to resolve pay issues and how relevant comparators are identified.

The news that the BBC is under investigation by the EHRC comes less than a month before the next set of gender pay gap reports are due, and many employers will be trying to demonstrate that they have made improvements. Early indications from paygaps.com indicate that there have been improvements made by the first 2,179 organisations to declare their data – women are now on average paid £89.02 for every £100 men earn, up from £88.20 last year.

There is undoubtedly still work to be done, however, to address the pay gap. Employers will soon have the benefit of being able to compare two comprehensive sets of data for their company, which could shed some light on both the areas where the company has progressed, and those in which there is need for some improvement.

The EHRC anticipates that its investigation into the BBC will continue until the end of 2019, at which point it will release its findings and make its recommendations on how the BBC should proceed.

The investigation serves as a timely reminder that employers should be doing as much as possible, regardless of their size or status, to ensure both men and women are receiving equal work for equal pay. The deadline to publish gender pay reports is fast approaching (30 March for public sector organisations and 4 April for businesses and charities) and employers’ data will be scrutinised, both to see whether there have been any improvements on the previous year, and whether the measures they adopted to address the gap have been effective.

15th March 2019