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In Category: Thoughts
Published: 25/07/2017

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Generally, organisations do not scientifically value people by their contribution to the organisation – they pay them what they think they have to pay them. As the BBC has found, when shorn of all context, the difficulty with reporting on pay is that the numbers become the headline.

Basing what you pay an employee on what they are worth to another employer is perverse behaviour.  The other employer is not the same organisation; their team, work distribution and financial metrics are likely to be different. So why is their remuneration structure a better measure of the worth of the individual than yours?

Arguing about market forces or values is a cop out. The truth is that we are terrible at fairly and evenly valuing the contribution and therefore remuneration of individuals in most forms of employment. Sometimes the hinge that squeaks the most gets the most oil; sometimes we increase pay to stop someone leaving when they do not really deserve more pay; and almost all of the time we pay no more than we think we can get away with paying.

On the morning that the BBC released the pay details of their top earners, Dan Walker, sitting next to Louise Minchin on the breakfast sofa said “it’s going to be a fun day.” Dan Walker was reported to earn up to £250,000; Louise’s earnings were not reported – obviously they are below the £150,000 reporting threshold.

On the face of it, the only explanation of the apparently large difference in pay was their gender. Otherwise they are two people doing precisely the same job. One might conclude that he is over paid and/or she is unfairly treated. It later transpired that they were paid an identical amount for their work as breakfast presenters but that Dan Walker also worked on another programme – Football Focus -  and it was the payment for this additional work that made up the difference. 

On one level, this could all be quite reassuring. They do get the same pay for the same work and Dan’s decision to do extra work fully justifies his additional income and indeed that could be the end of it. But, there is too little context to be sure of this. Could it be that there are many more opportunities for male presenters to get additional work? Might Louise, with comparable skill and experience to Dan, have her income capped in a way that his is not? We don’t know – there is still too little information for us to assign any real meaning to the headline numbers.

Andrew Marr on his eponymous show suggested that he and other high earning men were paid more because of their accrued experience, but this does not seem to hold water as an explanation given that Andrew Neil earns £200,000 to £249,999 while Claudia Winkleman earns £450,000 to £499,999. The nature, quality and quantity of work undertaken is likely to have a greater influence than longevity. Mr Marr also said, "if I had been born Audrey Marr rather than Andrew Marr, I would have been out 10 years ago” and pointed out the lack of older women on TV. On the same programme, it was suggested that men are far more likely to be approached to “change sides” than women and that this fact may be responsible, at least in part, for the apparent income disparity between the sexes. There is arguably no justification for Chris Evans being paid £2.2M, nor for Gary Linaker’s £1.8M, other than that others will pay them that or more to join their channel.

Remuneration for the role

The degree of transparency required of large employers by the Equality Act 2010 will change things as will the recruitment standards set out in British Standard BS76005 (for more on this see Raising Standards in D&I Compliant Recruitment). Rather than a horrible upheaval, this can simply be a coming of age for all employers enabling the remuneration level to be placed on the role and not the individual.

Recruiting for a role by skill and experience alone blind to all protected characteristics and all triggers for discrimination requires a robust methodology for targeting, selecting and tracing candidates throughout the recruitment process; a service supplied and supported by

Written by Mark Husband, Managing Director

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