Two thirds of the BBC’s top earners are male the Corporation has revealed, bringing into question the public sector broadcaster’s attempts to tackle the gender pay gap.

The annual BBC report revealed that the Corporation’s top earner is BBC Radio 2 host Chris Evans, who is paid £2.25 million.

However, this is much more than the BBC’s highest earning female star, Strictly Come Dancing host Claudia  Winkleman, who is paid between £450,00 and £500,000.

Winkleman is followed by the One Show’s Alex Jones, who brings home between £400,000 and  £450,000.

The top seven earners in the BBC’s list of its best paid stars were all men.

Lorraine Heard, Legal Director at national law firm Bond Dickinson, said:

“Today’s disclosure of the salaries of the BBC top talent list raises two interesting gender pay issues. Firstly there is a striking imbalance between the number of males and females on the list. Whilst this calls into question the organisation’s approach to gender equality in general it does not, of itself, establish unlawful behaviour.

“The second issue concerns the relative rates of pay as between males and females on the list. Employees who undertake equal work are entitled to the same rate of pay. Equal work does not mean that employees have to do the same or similar jobs. If the work of a female employee is of ‘equal value’ to that of the male employee she is entitled to the same rate of pay, unless the employer can establish a non-discriminatory reason for the pay difference that can be justified if necessary. Work is of ‘equal value’ if it is equally demanding, including in terms of skill, effort and decision making.

“Undoubtedly the BBC would argue that it pays what it needs to pay to recruit and retain the unique and undoubtedly talented individuals it employs. Whether such an argument would be sufficient to justify a pay differential between a male and female employee whose roles are similar is debatable, and perhaps one that the females on the list will be considering closely in the coming weeks.”

The BBC’s Director General was quick to leap to the corporation’s defence as Jeremy Vine was skewered on his own BBC Radio 2 call-in show by a construction worker who called out the star over his level of pay.

‘On gender and diversity the BBC is more diverse than the broadcasting industry and the civil service,’ Lord Tony Hall commented.

‘We’ve made progress, but we recognise that we have more to do and we are pushing further and faster than any broadcaster.’

Overall the BBC spends over £28.7 million on paying its top talent.

Charles Cotton, Reward and Performance Adviser at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, comments:

“The transparency that the BBC is showing is welcome, even if it might lead to some awkward water cooler conversations.

“Publishing pay data encourages employers to think about how they are spending their money and reflect on whether they are rewarding staff fairly. CIPD research clearly shows that employees can be demotivated by excessive executive pay, so it’s important that organisations are accountable for what they are paying their highest earners, especially at a time when pay packets are being squeezed due to rising inflation and stagnant wages.”

“Not all organisations are required to publish top earner pay like the BBC has but the principle of greater transparency and taking stock of high pay is right for any business. We won’t shift the dial on greater fairness in pay, or on issues such as gender equality, until we see more organisations step up and take a reality check on how they reward their people – and importantly, whether this can be justified.”

Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.