October 25, 2018 / 4:49 PM / 22 days ago

Britain narrows the gender pay gap as MPs say BBC lags

LONDON, Oct 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The BBC is failing to tackle unequal pay for women, British lawmakers said on Thursday, even as official data showed the national gender pay gap had fallen to a historic low.

Evidence suggests women working at the public broadcaster earn less than men in comparable jobs and that bosses have failed to offer effective and transparent reforms, said the parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

“The BBC must take urgent action now if it’s to restore its reputation on equal pay and win back the trust of staff,” committee chairman Damian Collins said in a statement.

The report came a year after revelations that the BBC’s best-paid male star earned five times more than the best-paid woman, and that two thirds of on-air high earners were men, generating highly critical headlines as well as internal strife.

A BBC spokesman said much of the report was “out of date” and that it had made “real progress”, be it auditing pay or reforming its structure to ensure fairness and transparency.

The BBC was first caught up in a pay scandal in July 2017 after it was forced to publish salary details of its stars - and revealed that two thirds of the top earners were men.

The row snowballed into a wider debate over British women’s pay, with disparities cited in all sectors and at all levels.

As in many countries, pay inequality has been a persistent problem despite sex discrimination being outlawed in the 1970s.

The government introduced a law last year forcing all companies with 250 or more workers to publish details of the average gap between men’s and women’s pay.

Men in Britain earn on average 18.4 percent more than women, according to government data published last year.

The BBC report came as the gender pay gap in average hourly earnings for full-time staff fell to a historic low of 8.6 percent, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Nevertheless, it said women earn an average of 18 percent less than men per hour because they are over-represented in part-time jobs, which are more likely to be poorly paid.

Lawmakers said in their report that the BBC must do more after hearing evidence from unions, staff and management. The BBC had “failed to take proactive steps” and was urged to “publicly acknowledge that it has a pay discrimination problem”.

Women’s rights group the Fawcett Society said action must follow such a “damning” report.

The BBC has pledged to close the gender pay gap by 2020. (Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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