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Gender pay dispute – former TalkTalk executive takes on firm

A former senior executive at TalkTalk has taken the company to a tribunal over unfair dismissal and unequal pay. She is being supported by Carrie Gracie of the BBC and Sam Walker formerly from the Co-op.

Rebecca Burke claims that she discovered four male colleagues who were in the same job as her to be paid up to 40% more in salary. The four men were also paid 50% more in bonuses.

After leading TalkTalk through the cybersecurity programme following the 2015 hacking scandal Ms Burke was made redundant 15 months later. Subsequently she discovered that her four male colleagues were paid far more than she was.

Ms Burke is aiming to raise £40,000 on the Crowdjustice platform. This money will be used to pay her legal fees. She has further promised to give any money she receives as settlement to women’s rights charities Time’s Up UK and the Fawcett Society.

Carrie Gracie resigned from BBC’s China as editor over unequal pay and Sam Walker won her claim against the Co-operative Group over equal pay.

Although Ms Burke took TalkTalk to tribunal last December, it was postponed because her barrister Naomi Cunningham requested the panel stand down as they were hostile to Ms Burke’s case.

Cunningham addressed the tribunal stating that no claimant in an equal pay case could feel any confidence about a fair hearing based on the exchanges that were made.

Judge Graeme Harrison took several days when considering the request and then declined to step down. By this time, it was too late for the case to be heard. It was rescheduled for 27th January 2020 and will only be able to go ahead if Ms Burke manages to raise the necessary funds.

Ms Burke funded the first tribunal herself. She stated that getting this far had cost her an enormous amount of time and money and drained her both emotionally and financially. As a result, she is committed to raising money for this vital case and getting justice. She also hopes to draw attention to the plight of many other women who find themselves in similar positions.

If her target is not reached all funds received will be returned to the people who donated them.

Ms Gracie stated that it took the courage of ‘silence breakers’ such as Ms Burke to draw attention to pay discrimination. Without people like Ms Burke and cases like this people are none the wiser about pay discrimination issues. This is an immense sacrifice by one woman to alert others to the issue.

Sam Walker stated that it is often the case that women simply cannot afford the financial or mental toll of taking their employer to a tribunal. They often ended up signing a non-disclosure agreement and settling out of court for a far smaller amount than they are owed in back pay.

Walker went on to say that there needs to be legal reform as well as reform within reporting arrangements that show the extent of equality ‘payoffs’ which are taking place all the time.

When approached at the time of the first hearing for comment, TalkTalk issued a statement saying that they strongly refute the claims against them. The company does not tolerate gender discrimination of any sort. This also includes discrimination in pay.

Because of the case being ongoing, TalkTalk would not comment any further. They did say that the company is committed to treating all their employees fairly. TalkTalk is confident that there is no disparity in pay between male and female staff members.

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