The BBC will consider waiving controversial confidentiality clauses that employees were previously forced to sign as part of settlements for equal pay disputes, amid rising scrutiny and in the wake of Samira Ahmed’s landmark tribunal victory against the broadcaster.
Employees who brought complaints against the BBC before 2016 were required to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) preventing them from discussing their settlement with colleagues, friends, or the media.
Claimants who were previously banned from speaking out about their dispute and settlement could now do so, according to a report by The Times and confirmed by the Guardian. The BBC will consider waiving these confidentiality clauses on a case by case basis.
The broadcaster stopped asking claimants to sign NDAs in pay disputes four years ago. But it still uses such clauses in settlement agreements which restrict employees from disclosing trade secret type of confidential information.
The BBC is understood to have agreed to consider releasing staff from confidentiality clauses in equal pay settlements before Ahmed’s landmark case. Ahmed, who was paid a rate of £440 per an episode for presenting the viewer feedback programme Newswatch, took the BBC to court for paying Jeremy Vine £3,000 an episode for hosting the similar show Points of View.
The public broadcaster was dealt a heavy blow after an employment tribunal unanimously concluded that it had failed to provide convincing evidence that the reason for the pay gap was not due to gender discrimination.
Lawyers have warned that the BBC could face a bill running into the millions for similar claims by other female staff. The hearings revealed that 120 female employees had pursued gender pay complaints against the corporation.
Ahmed’s employment tribunal victory was the latest scandal in BBC’s long-standing gender pay gap row, which has engulfed the corporation since it was forced to reveal the salary details of its top earners in 2017. A review of pay published in 2017 showed the gender pay gap at the corporation was 9.3%.
Leading male news and current affairs presenters were shamed into taking pay cuts, as the broadcaster was investigated by the equality watchdog over claims men were consistently paid more than women for doing the same job.
Most recently, the BBC has come under fire again for hiring an employment consultancy with a gender pay gap twice the size of the broadcaster’s to help tackle its gender pay gap. According to the Financial Times, the Croner consultancy, which was first brought in by the BBC in 2018 to handle equal pay complaints, became a central player in the BBC’s attempts to tackle its gender pay gap problems.