The BBC has apologised to former China editor Carrie Gracie for underpaying her and says it “has now put this right” by giving her back pay.

She is donating the full, undisclosed amount to the Fawcett Society, a charity that campaigns for gender equality and women’s rights.

The money will go towards setting up a fund for women who need legal advice on equal pay claims.

Gracie said:

“I am glad to have been able to resolve this. It shows that we can make progress.

“This is a huge day for me. I love the BBC. It’s been my work family for more than 30 years and I want it to be the best. Sometimes families feel the need to shout at each other, but it’s always a relief when you can stop shouting.

“I’m grateful to the director general for helping me resolve this. I do feel he has led from the front today.

“In acknowledging the value of my work as China editor, the BBC has awarded me several years of backdated pay. But for me this was always about the principle and not about the money, so I’m giving all of that money away to help women who need it more than I do.

“After all, today at the BBC I can say I am equal.

“I would like women in workplaces up and down this country to be able to say the same. This has been an enormously long, hard road to get here. It has involved so much work by so many people, and I am proud of it.

“Cultural change takes time to help people think things through. It is an enormously difficult issue, not just for the BBC but for employers all over the country and all over the world. This is a win for me and a win for the BBC. I’m proud of all of us.”

When she resigned as China editor, Gracie said she had been dismayed to find the BBC’s two male international editors earned “at least 50% more” than their two female counterparts.

Gracie, who is still employed by the BBC, told MPs that the corporation treated women who spoke out about pay disparity as “the enemy”.

She said she refused a £45,000 pay rise because it still left a “big gap” between her and her male counterparts, when all she wanted was to be “made equal”.

At her request, Gracie will now take up to six months of unpaid leave and will take on writing and speaking engagements about both China and gender equality.

Harry Abrams, Solicitor at Seddons, comments:

“Today’s decision of the BBC to apologise and pay backpay to Carrie Gracie may well be seen as the watershed moment in years to come in equal pay cases.  As with gender pay gap reporting, it will continue to bring the issue of pay discrepancies based on gender into the public eye.  It is a reminder for companies that unless they can establish a material factor defence, they can face significant claims for compensation if it is proved that they pay women less than men.  Currently, in equal pay claim, women can claim for backpay for up to 6 years (in England and Wales) and 5 years (in Scotland).  In addition it is worth noting that whilst claims can be brought whilst employment continues, they can also be brought within 6 months after employment has ended if they go down the Tribunal route and 6 years if they pursue it in the civil courts.”