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Equal pay – what can we learn from the BBC’s experience?

In 2017, the BBC was obliged to publish all employee salaries due to new legislation that enforced companies to be more transparent. There was outrage due to the discrepancies among salaries of talent, and it highlighted areas of concern that all companies should consider. The BBC also found themselves in a legal battle with Samira Ahmed which went to tribunal over equal pay. This blog post is going to explore what happened and what we can learn from the BBC’s experience when it comes to equal pay.

Equal pay can be described as the legal right for men and women to be paid the same for doing the same or similar jobs, doing work that has been rated as “equivalent” or doing work of “equal value” where jobs may be different but require a similar level of skill.

The legal bit

The 1970 Equal Pay Act is also part of the 2010 Equality Act, which means that all employees are entitled to equal pay, regardless of whether they are full-time, part-time or temporary contracts.

Samira Ahmed Tribunal

Samira Ahmed took the BBC to court to claim she was underpaid for hosting Newswatch compared to Jeremy Vine’s salary for Points of View. He was being paid £3,000 per episode, compared to her £440, which is a 600% difference!

Samira’s argument was that she simply could not understand how pay for her, a woman, could be so much lower than Jeremy Vine, a man, for presenting very similar programmes and doing similar work.

“I just ask why the BBC thinks I am worth only a sixth of the value of the work of a man for doing a very similar job”

The BBC’s counter-argument was that there is a big difference between news programmes like Newswatch and entertainment programmes such as Point of View. They also argued that the presenter is a lesser part of the appeal of news programmes. They said Newswatch required a “skilled, trained journalist”, whereas the profile of the Point of View presenter was “more important than in the news”.

The result of the tribunal? Samira Ahmed won! The judge said her work was like that done by Jeremy Vine and the BBC had failed to prove the pay gap wasn’t because of sex discrimination.

During this time, Jeremy did agree to a pay cut and took £1300 per episode instead, which Samira Ahmed believes was due to her complaint.

BBC Gender Pay Gap Report

After publishing their employee salaries, the BBC received much backlash due to the difference in pay between men and women. The report was made up of just one-third women which is a further issue of under-representation and the highest-earning man earnt more than four times the salary of the highest-earning woman!

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So what can we learn from this?

The BBC and broadcasters have long thought it a common assertion that profile, fame or ‘stardust’ justifies the difference in pay rates. Although some circumstances allow employers to offer men and women differing salaries in the same role without being in breach of the Equal Pay Legislation, you must be able to demonstrate valid “material factor” to explain the difference. This can include experience, but it needs to be significant, relevant and genuine.

If you are an employer, you need to be very clear about how salaries have been calculated. It is prudent to carefully inform your staff about how their pay has been set out and tell them how soon they can expect to start earning the same as their higher-paid colleague. You will also need to report on backgrounds, skillsets, abilities and experience to justify any pay differences.

Keep an eye on both sex and race representation across all levels of business. You may want to assess your existing recruitment, inclusion and diversity policy to ensure they are fit for purpose. This helps to level out any under-representation.

Train any line managers on how to handle pay queries, so they are not escalated when challenges arise.

Businesses with less than 250 employees are not required to report on Gender Pay, but adopting the principle of greater transparency around pay can only be a good thing for your company.

Conducting a review of any existing pay bands gradings or benchmarking processes may pinpoint any areas of difference which could help prepare for reporting on Gender Pay differences.

Greater awareness of equal pay will see many organisations have to justify how their people are rewarded, so by following my tips, you can make sure you are prepared for any future challenges.

Takeaway Tips:

  • Review your existing recruitment, diversity and inclusion policies
  • Build awareness of unconscious bias
  • Redesign career advancement programmes and arrange regular meetings with employees in line with appraisals
  • Regularly monitor any pre-existing pay gaps
  • Train line managers on how to handle pay queries

If you need any advice regarding equal pay or help with your existing policies, please do Get in touch

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Reducing Risk

  • Communicate to employees the actions you’re taking to reduce risk and update regularly
  • Encourage staff to wash hands often for the recommended 20 seconds
  • Ensure Managers know how to spot symptoms – cough, temperature and shortness of breath
  • Make sure all emergency contacts are up to date
  • Issue hand sanitizer and tissues to staff
  • Don’t have big team meetings; try and put 2m between staff
  • Masks are useless unless advised by a clinician
  • Implement home-working where feasible
  • Google and Microsoft are offering 6 months’ free for their tools such as ‘teams’ and ‘hangouts’
  • Reduce face to face contacts with video conference
  • Stop non-essential business travel
  • Ask employees about their potential holiday plans over the next three months

Certified Absence/SSP

  • SSP will be paid from Day 1, not Day 3
  • On day eight a sick note email from NHS 111 will be available rather than having to go to the GP for a fit note as self-isolation lasts for 14 days
  • Small businesses will be able to claim for the additional SSP, so keep a spreadsheet
  • If you send someone home but they argue they are fit to work, you need to consider medical suspension which would be on full pay if they can’t work from home
  • If they are self-isolating because of family members with symptoms but unable to work from home they are entitled to SSP

Temporary Closure

  • Review the disaster recovery plan if you have one.  If you don’t, then consider these questions:
    • What’s most critical?
    • What equipment do you need to keep going?
    • Can people work remotely?
    • Can the phone system be re-routed to allow working from home?
    • How will you communicate internally and externally?
    • How will you update stakeholders?
  • You can think about paid annual leave – consider current and future accruals
  • If you offer staff the option of unpaid leave, then they need to put their request in writing to prevent a legal challenge
  • If you want to enforce a holiday, then you need to provide double the notice; so they need to be given two weeks’ notice for one week’s leave.
  • If you have a lay off/short term working clause in your contract,  implementing this would just need calling an informal meeting (no right to be accompanied), explain the situation and then confirm in writing.
    • In this situation, employees are entitled to be paid £29 per day for five days in any three months. 
    • It’s important to note that if staff are laid off for four continuous weeks, they can claim redundancy pay (if they have more than two years’ service)
  • If they have more than two years’ service, they are entitled to be made redundant, and therefore full consultation would need to be implemented, along with subsequent payments.

School Closures

  • No specific provisions have been announced as yet to support parents needing to stay home to care for children
  • In the absence of government advice or assistance, employees may choose to utilise their right to emergency time off for dependants which is unpaid

Additional Advice

If you want to discuss the implications of any of these issues on your business or talk about other possible courses of action, please contact us at hello@evolvehrsolutions.co.uk

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Creating a Menopause Savvy Workplace

Currently, most organisations will have a significant number of women in their workplace who are, or will soon, go through the menopause.  Whilst it’s something that is often joked about by women and men alike, it can be incredibly debilitating if you suffer extreme symptoms – of which there are 34! From hot flushes, to itchy skin and phycological problems such as depression, it really is so important to create a workplace that supports and encourages those who are going through the menopause.

Why is it important?

You only need to look at the range of symptoms, both physical and mental to begin to understand what women experience when they are going through this phase in the female lifecycle. If you want to retain key talent and experience, it makes sense to support this population of people to make sure they are comfortable and motivated at work. It is also your legal duty to ensure working conditions don’t exacerbate someone’s symptoms. By making sure you understand everything about the menopause and how you can help your people, you will retain valuable talent and help to remove barriers to progression for women.

How to create it?

Be there

Make sure you are knowledgeable and understand the symptoms to ensure you can be empathetic towards people who may be experiencing them. Make it easy for someone to be open with you by having regular catch-ups and ask open questions such as “How are you doing at the moment?”.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate…

In order to help,  you need to let your audience know that you’re listening, so think about an internal communication campaign demonstrating that you care, as well as linking this to an education programme for those who manage people (of all ages and gender) so that they understand what to look for and how to help.

Risk Assessment

By making simple changes, it could really make a huge difference to someone who is struggling with symptoms of the menopause. Issues such as temperature and ventilation, uniform fabrics and access to facilities such as cold water and toilets need to be assessed to make sure adjustments suit workers who are suffering/struggling with symptoms.

Make Adjustments

Organise discussions with individuals to identify the specific issues/symptoms they are experiencing. Some examples of adjustments that could be made:

  • Private areas for women to rest/recover or make calls they may need for support (Professional or Personal).
  • Flexible Working Time – They may need more breaks throughout the day or to come in later/leave earlier.
  • Facilities such as adequate drinking water supplies, temperature control, portable fans and access to toilets/washroom.

Managing Performance

It is important to manage performance proactively and positively. Performance may suffer during this time (which can last months, or years), so understanding the root cause will help to minimise the organisational impact.  Organise regular informal discussions including relevant and constructive feedback, which helps to build trust as well as encouraging a two-way conversation. Take any health issues into consideration when reviewing performance and set reasonable timescales for improvement. You may also like to consider some external support such as therapy or coaching, or referring to any Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) that you may have.  If you don’t have one, think about implementing one!

Supporting key symptoms

There are many adjustments you can make within the workplace to provide relief or support for symptoms your workforce could be experiencing.

Sleep disruption and/or night sweats – which could lead to more absence at work. Consider a flexible working arrangement if possible, such as working from home on an ad hoc basis, amend shift patterns or give the option to swap shifts on a temporary basis until symptoms abate.

Hot flushes and/or daytime sweats – ensure access to a cool working environment, which could be achieved using a fan, air conditioning or by sitting closer to a window. It is also important to give access to cold drinking water and washrooms to increase comfort levels. Some organisations provide a “comfort” room to allow people to freshen up, or if needed change clothes during the working day if sweats are particularly severe.

Heavy/irregular periods – this can be particularly embarrassing, especially if they are prone to “flooding”; unexpected heavy bleeding. Providing a working from home option can help.  However, where this isn’t feasible ensure there is easy access to washrooms and toilet facilities at work and putting a range of products in the ‘ladies’, such as sanitary products, deodorants, fragrance etc makes women feel less of a nuisance!

Headaches and fatigue – experiencing this symptom regularly can be frustrating for both the employer and employee so, it may be a good idea to temporarily adjust work duties that may heighten this. Helping people remain hydrated is important, so provide access to chilled drinking water. You may also like to have a restroom for workers to go in when symptoms are high and regular breaks to take any medication they may need.

Muscular aches, bone and joint pain – a risk assessment will identify necessary adjustments to alleviate symptoms.  It is also important to allow workers to move around or stay mobile dependant on their issues.

Psychological Issues – a variety of these can arise as a result of the menopause. Encourage open discussion in one-to-one meetings and address any adjustments to tasks and duties that may help. Allow access to professional services such as counselling or CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy). You could also provide a safe space they can go to for a break or allow to work from home when needed.

By educating yourself, senior, middle managers and your team about the symptoms of menopause and all the changes that can help to support people who are suffering, will ultimately help to create a better work environment for everyone. It not only shows you are caring for your workforce, but also that you are willing to make adjustments to support anyone who may be struggling with any psychological or physical health issues.

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Teaching how to use a camera

How To Make The Most Out Of Your Work Experience Placement?

Many employers are approached to host a student from aged 14 upwards for a week or two of work experience. Sometimes it’s a student who has a link to the company perhaps a parent is an employee or sometimes it’s random. Either way, you can guarantee that the student will be shy and nervous and very much out of their comfort zone. For some it’s obligatory and they may not have chosen to be there, but they are there and it’s up to you and your team to make the most out of it for them as well as your company.

It is vital that students partake in work experience as it provides them with an insight into what it’s like to experience the workplace environment. As well as gaining key skills such as communication, working within a team and time management all being essential key components and highly valued of an employer.

Why it is vital students participate in work experience?

Work experience is a great opportunity for a student, but it’s a great opportunity for your staff too. They must explain what they are doing and why to someone who doesn’t know, and that can be quite an insight into their own understanding of their role and the company itself.

 It’s a great way of encouraging links within your company and the local school or college especially if you recruit school leavers.

It’s easy for the student to be in the way and hinder the productiveness of your team, and it’s also easy for them to feel like a distraction to you, so in turn, they don’t enjoy or value the experience and don’t get anything positive out of it.

So ahead of a student joining you, prepare a meeting with staff who will be taking any responsibility and make a plan.

  • Brief the student ahead of the visit
  • Have a list of duties that the student can do (Start small and gradually build up to reduce the pressure for the student)
  • Appoint a ‘buddy’ who will be a ‘go-to’ person for the student throughout their visit. The buddy should meet with them briefly every morning and evening to check that all is well and give any instructions or advice
  • Make sure all staff treat the student fairly and make her/him feel a part of your team. Gives the student a sense of belonging and makes them feel valued
  • Make sure staff are aware of anything confidential that the student shouldn’t be involved in and ensure that any office conversations are age-appropriate

How To Prepare Your Work Placement For Work Experience?

Teaching ho to use a camera

The appointed ‘buddy’ is there to provide informal support and guidance to the student to reduce pressure and anxiety they may be feeling. The appointed ‘buddy’ needs to keep in contact to let the student know what to expect. This should cover:

  • What to where including what is not acceptable
  • Where and when they need to be on day one and when they will finish
  • Arrangements for breaks and lunchtime including, the facilities available
  • What to bring – notebook, pen etc.
  • Your mobile Phone policy
  • A few examples of what they can expect you to do
  • If they will go ‘off-site’
  • Details of any advance reading- company website etc.
  • Encourage any questions

On day one expect the student to be very nervous and very uncertain of what to do, say and even where to stand so brief staff to give clear and basic instructions.

Introduce the student to people – firstly they will probably not remember names and secondly may not be expecting a greeting handshake. Expect to repeat names. Many students struggle with eye contact and small talk, so they appear rude, but most are often genuinely terrified!

With a work experience student, assume they know nothing. They would rather have something repeated throughout the week than the assumption that they know.

Try to have a list of duties for the student to do and if possible, write down full instructions. If you want them to answer a ringing phone, tell them what to say and what to expect the caller to ask/ want. If you don’t want them to answer a ringing phone – tell them that too. If they are assisting with filing, assume that they won’t have done any before, so they need to know how to arrange the paperwork according to the company’s filing system.

How To Manage Your Staff and Work Placement Time?

Try to vary who the student is with, so they see a variety of jobs within the company, this will make them feel more comfortable with other members of the team. This is also so no employees are falling behind in their work as they are explaining and getting delayed.

If the student has a particular interest, try to tailor their working day to where their interests lie to keep them motivated.

Have a proper mid-week review- check with the student that they are happy. By day three they should hopefully have settled into the working environment and feel comfortable with members of the team, and with their confidence increasing if they feel able to ask to spend time with a particular person or department then this is great news!

At the end of their work experience have a review with your staff- did they feel they gave the student a great insight into the company and the industry, what would they have done differently (In most cases employees are shocked with how shy and nervous the students are therefore how difficult they find it is to engage with them) and would they be involved in the scheme again.

For more information of how a HR Consultant can support your business, give me a call on 07775 756603 https://evolvehrsolutions.co.uk/contact-us/

Nicola Stout


Nicola Stout, MBA, FCIPD, Dip HR

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