The Equality and Human Rights Commission said after spending a year reviewing the corporation’s pay policies it concluded there was reason to suspect “some women at the organisation have not received equal pay for equal work”.
Concerns about wage disparity at the BBC made headlines in 2017 when it was forced to publish the salaries of stars earning more than £150,000 a year, showing for the first time how many famous men were paid substantially more than their female equivalents.
However, many BBC staff privately claim gender pay inequality remains a significant problem at lower wage bands, where the vast majority of staff who work behind the scenes earn substantially lower salaries that are never made public. At this level, a small difference in salary substantially affect quality of life.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, the chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Paying men and women the same salary for the same job has been a legal requirement for almost 50 years. Every organisation should know we are fully committed to ensuring employers comply with equal pay law.
The equality watchdog said while it recognised the BBC was changing its pay system, it would examine a sample selection of “formal and informal pay complaints” filed after January 2016 to see whether the corporation had broken equality rules.
The investigation, which aims to conclude by the end of the year, will not just take into account basic pay but also look at whether men benefit unfairly in terms of shift rates, allowances, pensions, bonuses, sick pay, redundancy and unfair dismissal compensation awards.
The BBC acknowledged “some of the criticism levelled at us over this period was very fair as change was overdue” but said the new pay systems were now fair and transparent to staff. It said it was “profoundly sorry” some historic pay cases had not been resolved.
A spokesperson said: “Given the public focus on this important issue, we understand why the Equality and Human Rights Commission is looking for assurance on equal pay and we welcome it. It is a logical time to do this as we have gone through a period of significant reform.
“We are confident that the BBC can provide that assurance and indeed go beyond and demonstrate our commitment to be a model for others to follow in this area as a result of our reform programme, although of course we will learn any lessons from the EHRC’s work as we continue to deliver change.”