BBC apologises to Carrie Gracie, former China editor, over unequal pay

Carrie Gracie quit her post in January 2018 in a dispute over equal pay after the BBC was forced to disclose salary levels.
Carrie Gracie quit her post in January 2018 in a dispute over equal pay after the BBC was forced to disclose salary levels.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION) - Britain's public broadcaster, the BBC, apologised on Friday (June 29) for paying its China Editor Carrie Gracie less than male editors elsewhere, saying it was committed to the principle of equal pay.

Gracie quit her post in January in a dispute over equal pay after the BBC was forced to disclose salary levels which showed two thirds of highest earners on air were men and some earned far more than women in equivalent roles.

The BBC acknowledged it had told Gracie - who speaks fluent Mandarin and has reported on China for three decades - that she would be paid in line with the North America Editor and she accepted the role on that understanding.

But in July last year, it emerged that North America Editor Jon Sopel earned between £200,000 and £250,000 (S$360,000 and S$450,000) a year compared to Gracie's £135,000.

"The BBC acknowledges the specific circumstances relating to Carrie's appointment, apologises for underpaying Carrie, and has now put this right," the BBC said in a statement.

The BBC was compelled to list the top salaries in the organisation as part of its latest funding settlement with the government.

The broadcaster said it had backdated Gracie's pay to make amends and was "committed to the principle of equal pay".

"I'm delighted to donate all the backdated pay from the BBC to help women striving for equality at work," said Gracie, who is now taking six months unpaid leave to write and speak about China, as well as gender equality.

Britain enacted legislation outlawing sex discrimination in the 1970s and this was followed by an equality act in 2010, but women still earn less than men across much of the economy.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) - a leading think tank - earlier this year said Britain's gender wage gap stood at about 20 per cent, down from nearly 30 per cent in the 1990s.

Amid growing pressure for equal salaries, Britain introduced a law in 2017 requiring companies with at least 250 workers - which covers almost half of its workforce - to report pay discrepancies between male and female employees.