Mark down July 19, 2017 in your calendars. Remember it as the day that the wheels truly fell off the BBC as the British public - and apparent shareholders in the corporation - discovered that we were all extras in a special episode of Goodnight Sweetheart.
(For those unaware of one of British comedy’s finest creations, let me help peel back the curtains. Goodnight Sweetheart is a BBC comedy featuring Nicholas Lyndhurst who discovers that he is able to go back and forth between the present day (‘90s) and 1940s London, during World War 2.)
The BBC revealed the salaries of 96 of its stars* earning over £150,000 a year as part of its new Royal Charter, setting the internet ablaze as third party offence swept the nation. But while some complained that fake nurses on Casualty earned more than real nurses, the true story was that two thirds of the stars on the list were male, and the gap between the highest paid male and female talent was £1.5million.
*The full list can be reviewed at the end of this piece.
Mutiny on the B(BC)ounty:
Prior to the release of the figures, there were no clear concerns over gender pay. Perhaps the public were naïve enough to believe that a corporation as large and iconic as the BBC weren’t going to fall victim to the gender pay gap. They were wrong.
The list showed a business operating in an age of pale, male and stale, while espousing modern values. An embargo was placed on the release, something motor mouth and all round figure of derision, Piers Morgan, roundly ignored. Why should the BBC be allowed to put their ducks in a row?
Since then, there have been whispers that all is not well on the good ship BBC, talk of frosty exchanges between news anchors has been just the tip of the iceberg, with Woman’s Hour’s Jane Garvey tweeting:
“I'm looking forward to presenting @BBCWomansHour today. We'll be discussing #GenderPayGap. As we've done since 1946. Going well, isn't it?"
BBC Breakfast host, Dan Walker, came under fire for making the list (£200k-£249k) when his co-host, Louise Minchin, didn’t. He explained that all BBC Breakfast hosts are paid equally, though his salary included his hosting Football Focus.
Third party salaries
Some questioned the big gap between stars like Chris Evans (£2.2m) and Gary Lineker (£1.75m) with Graham Norton (£0.85m), but this was explained away as stars Norton, Mary Berry, and the cast of Poldark, are also paid through a production company, who aren’t required to release salaries. Top Gear’s Matt LeBlanc is also paid via BBC Worldwide, hence why his salary was absent from the list.
Since the release, many people have taken aim at the BBC over the gap, including one member of the public who provided the tweet of the year, with this beauty:
Although a close second was provided by @harrisharrison:
Others have provided the stereotypical response questioning the licence fee, although if you believe that this will affect the licence fee in any way, I have a friend in Nigeria who wants to share his wealth with you.
While it is heartening to see so many journalists and MPs share outrage on behalf of the women at the BBC, Beth Rigby and Caroline Lucas to name but a few. It’s perhaps selective outrage as Sky hasn’t been forced into revealing the salaries of its journalists. If it had, I wonder whether it would reveal that Beth Rigby earns as much as her male counterparts?
While many concentrate on the gender gap, others are equally concerned with the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) disparities. Seven of the top 10 earners are white male, but only 10 names out of 96 were of BAME backgrounds.
The haves and the have nots
An article on Sky News by political correspondent, Lewis Goodall, further fuelled the flame of class inequality at the BBC, with this quote:
“I've been doing some research and number crunching. The list contains over 80 on-screen names. No fewer than 45% of the BBC's best paid stars went to private schools. That compares to 7% of the nation overall.
Just think about that. If you send your child to private school it increases their chances of being one of the biggest names in TV and media by a factor of six.”
“Three in five of the best-paid BBC on-air journalists and presenters went to independent schools. That means you're nine times more likely to be a top BBC journalist if you went to private school.”
“If you're a working class girl, the odds are longer still. From Jeremy Vine to Mishal Husain from Sophie Raworth to Nick Robinson, the list is eye-wateringly long. Much attention was paid to the pay disparity on the Today programme, less to the fact that four of its five presenters went to private schools.
Tellingly, even among many of those who did go to state schools, the vast majority went to grammars. It's possible to count the number of "bog standard comprehensive" working class boys and girls on one hand.”
Journalists are meant to be impartial and reflect the British public. From the bin collector to the managing director, society is a mixture of genders, backgrounds, ethnicities and beliefs but does the BBC truly reflect the British public?
Three in five of the best paid on-air journalists and presenters on the BBC attended independent schools, making you nine times more likely to be a top BBC journalist if you went to a private school. With that in mind, what about those individuals who were not afforded such privilege? As an organisation intended to reflect the everyman, this report is not only detrimental to the BBC, but of anyone who aspires to be a top journalist or on-air talent without the aid of a private education.
Who’s to blame?
While it’s easy to take aim at the people on the list as receiving salaries that far outweigh our perceived value for them, is it their fault? If your boss offered you seven figures, you’d hardly correct them that you’re only worth six, at best.
Likewise, you’re unlikely to find people fighting for the rights of gender, ethnicity and class, when it’s probable they were legitimately ignorant to them the whole time.
We’re not talking about a backward corporation aiming for legitimacy; this is the linchpin of British television. A beacon with which we have looked to for decades to present the best writing, directing and acting talent our little isle has to offer. Classic comedies, cutting edge documentaries, compelling dramas – I mean, did anyone ever watch Only Fools and Horses and believe Cassandra was clearing the same as Del Boy or whether Denzil was pulling in that Boyce money, no of course not!
Be selective in your outrage, but be consistent. The BBC aren’t the only ones to blame for the pay gap, they are just today’s poster child.
The BBC has a lot to do in terms of restoring trust and respect, but they are not out of the water yet. It’s not a case of just paying people more and being done with it. Instead, they should look at all their talent, and regardless of who they are, they should pay them fairly and equally for their work. That’s part one, part two (which should run concurrently with part one) is about looking at how they can produce more opportunities for all people, regardless of class. The BBC should be inclusive, never exclusive and always open to new and exciting talent, regardless of the type of spoon it was fed with.
£2.2million - £2.5 million
Chris Evans, Presenter
£1.75 million - £1.79 million
Gary Lineker, Presenter
£850,000 - £899,999
Graham Norton, Presenter
£700,000 - £749,999
Jeremy Vine, Presenter
£600,000 - £649,999
John Humphrys, Presenter
£550,000 - £599,999
Huw Edwards, Presenter
£500,000 - £549,999
Steve Wright, Presenter
£450,000 - £499,999
Claudia Winkleman, Presenter
Matt Baker, Commentator and Presenter
£400,000 - £449,999
Alex Jones, Presenter
Nicky Campbell, Presenter
Stephen Nolan, Presenter
Andrew Marr, Presenter
Alan Shearer, Sport
£350,000 - £399,999
Derek Thompson, Actor
Fiona Bruce, Presenter
Tess Daly, Presenter
Vanessa Feltz, Presenter
Nick Grimshaw, Presenter
Simon Mayo, Presenter
£300,000 - £349,999
Nick Knowles, Presenter
Sue Barker, Presenter
Eddie Mair, Presenter
Lauren Laverne, Presenter
£250,000 - £299,999
George Alagiah, Presenter
Nick Robinson, Presenter
Ken Bruce, Presenter
Scott Mills, Presenter
Trevor Nelson, Presenter
Evan Davis, Presenter
Brian Cox, Presenter
Zoe Ball, Presenter
Jason Mohammad, Presenter
Amanda Mealing, Actor
£200,000 - £249,999
Peter Capaldi, Actor
Danny Dyer, Actor
Emilia Fox, Actor
David Jason, Actor
Rosie Marcel, Actor
Adam Woodyatt, Actor
Gary Barlow, Contributor
Len Goodman, Contributor
Dannii Minogue, Contributor
Bruno Tonioli, Contributor
Alan Yentob, Presenter
Victoria Derbyshire, Presenter
Mishal Husain, Presenter
Martha Kearney, Presenter
Laura Kuenssberg, Correspondent
Andrew Neil, Presenter
Jon Sopel, Correspondent
Mark Radcliffe, Presenter
Mark Chapman, Presenter
Jools Holland, Presenter
Dan Walker, Presenter
John Inverdale, Presenter
Gabby Logan, Presenter
£150,000 - £199,999
Laurie Brett, Actor
Letitia Dean, Actor
Tameka Empson, Actor
Guy Henry, Actor
Linda Henry, Actor
Scott Maslen, Actor
Diane Parish, Actor
Hugh Quarshie, Actor
Jemma Redgrave, Actor
Tim Roth, Actor
Catherine Shipton, Actor
Gillian Taylforth, Actor
Lacey Turner, Actor
Darcey Bussell, Contributor
Mel Giedroyc, Presenter
Craig Horwood, Contributor
Paul Martin, Presenter
Simon Schama, Presenter
Justin Webb, Presenter
Kirsty Wark, Presenter
John Simpson, Correspondent
Sophie Raworth, Presenter
John Pienaar, Correspondent
James Naughtie, Correspondent and Presenter
Gavin Esler, Presenter
Mark Easton, Correspondent
Ben Brown, Presenter
Jeremy Bowen, Correspondent
Kamal Ahmed, Correspondent
Adrian Chiles, Presenter
Greg James, Presenter
Shaun Keaveny, Presenter
Moira Stuart, Presenter
Jo Whiley, Presenter
Naga Munchetty, Presenter and Contributor
John McEnroe, Presenter and Commentator
Jonathan Davies, Contributor
Clare Balding, Presenter
Jonathan Agnew, Presenter and Commentator
Well-known construction company, Mears, has banned its workers from having beards on health and safety grounds.
The company sent a letter to its staff detailing the reasons for their decision, but immediately incurred the wrath of Britain’s biggest union, Unite, who described the move as “penny-pinching stupidity”.
‘Elf and Safety’
Health and safety has its place in the construction industry, perhaps more than any other, but is this a step too far?
Mears has attributed the ban on facial hair to ensuring that face masks are able to achieve the required seal around the wearers mouth, something which facial hair actively blocks. They would rather their workers shave their beards as opposed to putting themselves at risk to potential lung injuries in years to come from inhaling dust and other potentially hazardous particles.
The big question
The question on the haired lips of many employees is whether a company is within their rights to enforce a rule where their staff are required to be clean shaven.
The short answer is yes. The long answer requires some explanation and caveats…
In general, employers can set whatever rules they want in the workplace, so long as they treat all employees fairly and without discrimination. For example, if they decided that only the workers in their Manchester branch needed to be clean shaven, but the staff in their Leeds office were free to grow facial hair, that would be indirect discrimination.
Employers can argue against indirect discrimination if it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
In Mears case, the banning of beards would be a proportionate means of achieving the aim of ensuring the health and safety of all employees.
The morale victory
Before enforcing such a measure, an employer should think about the impact such a decision could have on morale in the workplace. A company’s employees are its best asset and measures may risk alienating them over a decision that is unnecessarily strict or onerous.
If you need to implement something that could be received in a negative way, communicate every step of the way. Make your employees know your reasoning behind the decision and listen to their concerns. People will respect a decision more if they feel valued, regardless of the outcome.
Starting this month, we’ll look at a burning business question and answer it via the business community. Instead of so called ‘experts’ telling you how to run your business, we will collate the best answers from those on the front line.
This month we head over to Business.com to answer the question, what are your best time management techniques?
First, make a list of everything you need to accomplish. Put “A” next to everything that MUST be done that day, “B” next to everything you SHOULD do that day and “C” next to things you’d like to do that day. Here’s a hint, Facebook and other social media channels are never in the “A” category. Also, try not to open emails until you have spent at least 90 minutes on your “A” game.
Have at least three priority items that if you got done today you’d be happy with. Concentrating on things that require energy and focus in the morning, when you’re most likely to have the desire to accomplish them. By working in 90 minute blocks of completely uninterrupted work (no phones, no emails, no colleagues!) and rewarding yourself with a 15-minute physical break from work you’re more likely to get things done.
A few other points worth noting included:
One user suggests being deliberately inflexible at times. Learning to say no is a big step for a lot of people. Instead of seeing it as a negative, try to explain yourself properly and if you can pick it up later, offer to do so. Don’t fall into the mistake of giving excuses to how busy you are, as this can sometimes be misconstrued as ‘I’m busier than you’ and will cause unnecessary tension.
Do you have a business query you want the community to answer? Send your questions to email@example.com and it could be featured in an upcoming community chest.
Blogs. Companies either love them or loathe them. Done well, they can engage an audience, encourage conversation or showcase someone’s knowledge on a key topic. Susan Fowler’s high profile blog on her time at Uber ticked all the ‘done well’ boxes, yet I’m guessing Uber secretly loathed it.
In February this year, Susan Fowler published a blog on her website detailing her time working as a site reliability engineer (SRE) at ride sharing start-up turned industry giant, Uber. Between joining in November 2015, to leaving in December 2016, Fowler described a culture of sexism, harassment and bullying which has tainted the brand and set the ball rolling on a cataclysm of events which culminated with CEO, Travis Kalanick resigning from his role just a few short days ago.
While Kalanick takes the brunt of the blame for a number of high profile cock ups, you can’t help but ask where HR were in all of this. If you’ve not caught up yet, here is a timeline of how disaster unfolded at Uber:
February 19 – Susan’s blog
The beginning of the end for Kalanick as former engineer, Fowler, details numerous instances of sexual harassment and bullying reported to HR which were continually brushed aside. Her time at Uber details the plight of an individual who was passionate about her work, but failed by her company.
February 20 – Uber brings in the lawyers
The day after Fowler’s blog hits, Uber hires former US attorney general Eric Holder and Tammy Albarran, both partners at law firm Covington & Burling, to investigate the claims.
March 1 – Dash cam meltdown
Footage emerges of Kalanick swearing at an Uber driver regarding the company’s treatment of drivers (ironic!). Kalanick issued an apology to all his employees by email and commits to getting leadership help.
March 24 – Karaoke and sexual favours
Five employees (paywall) at Uber, including Kalanick were reported to have frequented a karaoke bar in Seoul during a business trip to South Korea, all standard fayre until you realise that the bar also offers escort services. The report indicates that a female employee was present who complained to HR about the incident.
June 6 – Employee cleanse
Uber fired 20 employees following an investigation into its workplace culture by law firm Perkins Coie. The firm had investigated 215 staff complaints going back to 2012, 54 were related to discrimination, 47 related to sexual harassment, 45 to unprofessional behaviour, and 33 to bullying.
Uber also hired Harvard Business School professor Frances Frei to train all its managers.
June 7 – Uber gets tough on execs
The company release Uber’s president of business in Asia, Eric Alexander, for his mishandling of a 2014 rape investigation in India.
June 12 – No.2 is no more
Uber’s number 2, and Kalanick’s confidante, Emil Michael leaves the company as part of a top-level exodus following the departures of president and marketing chief Jeff Jones, finance chief Gautam Gupta, and senior vice president of engineering Amit Singhal.
Michael was implicated in the escort / karaoke bar scandal and suggested that Uber dig up dirt on journalists critical of Uber.
June 13 – Holder’s report
Uber release a 13-page report by Eric Holder recommending guidance on a number of topics including alcohol consumption, workplace relationships, and effectively handling complaints. Uber unanimously adopt all the recommendations.
June 14 – Kalanick takes an indefinite leave of absence
Following the death of his mother, Kalanick takes an indefinite leave of absence leaving the company’s day to day operations in the hands of a 14 member committee of senior execs.
In an unrelated matter David Bonderman, venture capitalist and Uber board of directors member, resigns following a sexist remark during an all-staff meeting. Interrupting a speech celebrating the boards ratio of women increasing from 14% to 25% with a ‘joke’ implying that there will be more talking at future meetings.
June 20 – 180 days of change campaign
Uber announces a new campaign to reshape the struggling company’s image. New initiatives such as tipping drivers and adding driver-injury protection insurance is welcomed among staff.
June 21 – Kalanick shown the door
At the request of five investors, Kalanick resigns.
Money where your mouth is
You’re probably thinking this is a fairly in-depth piece to highlight sexual harassment at Uber, and you’re right but there is a reason behind the word count.
The timeline shows an amalgamation of reports, firings, resignations, marketing campaigns and legal undertakings which would have cost Uber millions, and a further few billions in share valuations. Online backlash such as the #deleteUber campaign also saw 500,000 users delete their accounts in just one week.
If you take Fowler’s blog at face value (and considering the legal investigations, 13-page recommendation report, and numerous firings and resignations it would be hard not to) all of this could have been avoided if legitimate concerns brought to the attention of HR would have been treated with the care and attention they deserve. Imagine how much time, effort and money would have been saved had the correct processes been followed and had they undertaken a no-nonsense stance on harassment, be it sexual, racial or gender related.
Equality is the easy part
It may sound condescending but it’s true. Treating all people equally should be the easy part. Making sure that employees are valued on their performance and not their gender, sexual orientation or race is simple. It shouldn’t get to the stage where lawyers are brought in to run reports on workplace culture. You needn’t pay millions investigating reports of harassment, especially when many of those reports, allegedly, were accompanied by hard facts and evidence.
For too long employees have seen HR as being only about the welfare of the employer. If handled correctly, HR should protect the rights of everyone within a business regardless of position.
Sadly, heads needed to roll before changes were made at Uber. But with the company valued at over £60bn, they are afforded the time to implement those changes. Unfortunately, not all companies are as fortunate as Uber. Second, third and fourth chances are unheard of outside multi-billion-pound industry giants. The ones who should know better rarely do, and those that do, rarely get the credit they deserve.
Internal HR departments can be a great tool but if a company is toxic then the spread will infect all. It took more time and effort for Uber to do a bad job than it would have taken for them to do a good one. Had the HR department stood firm and done the role they were in place to do, then the rest of the timeline falls away.
It remains to be seen whether Uber can bounce back from this. One thing that is certain is that they will be under a microscope from this point on, as people wait for the next inevitable addition to the timeline.
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