"It’s been a difficult decision in some ways, but it’s a very full-on job," she told HR magazine. "I’ll always love the BBC but it’s about getting a bit of balance back in your life. It’s sad to leave these people and the organisation, but for me it’s the right thing to do."
The former group HR director for Steria and former group HR and communications director at Amey said she was "open-minded" about what she does next. "I’m not going to stop working," she said.
At the beginning of last year BBC’s China editor Carrie Gracie stood down citing a ‘secretive and illegal pay culture’, with some high-profile female BBC personalities calling on the corporation to "act now" to deal with its gender pay gap. The Equality and Human Rights Commission wrote to the BBC calling for action and six of the broadcaster’s leading male presenters agreed to take pay cuts.
However, the National Audit Office’s (NAO) full audit into pay at the BBC, published a month ago, stated: ‘The BBC has taken significant steps to improve the consistency, transparency and fairness of its staff pay and working practices, and is well ahead of other organisations on pay transparency and the gender pay gap.’
Backing up a January 2018 report published by PwC which concluded that there was no gender bias regarding pay decisions at the BBC below senior management level, the NAO audit added: ‘The BBC undertook a series of wide ranging reforms between 2015 and 2018 to standardise and simplify its workforce management for employees. This has improved consistency in job structures and pay, and terms of employment.’
Work on this issue over Hughes-D’Aeth’s tenure has included the introduction of a Career Path Framework with transparent pay ranges – reducing 5,000 job titles to 600.
The BBC has also reduced its gender pay gap by nearly a fifth, from 9.3% in 2017 to 7.6% in 2018, with the NAO reporting that this gap is ‘lower than the national average and most other media organisations’. The Will Hutton review on transparency, published earlier this year, concluded that the BBC was among the UK leaders in pay transparency.
In an email to senior leaders at the BBC announcing the news of Hughes-D’Aeth's departure, director general Tony Hall said: "We owe Valerie an enormous debt of gratitude for the leadership and commitment she’s shown in her time here. She’s addressed so many long-standing challenges – from reforming terms and conditions to the way we’re structured as an organisation; from the way we recruit to enabling people to do their best work."
Hughes-D’Aeth added that there was still much work to focus on before she left just before Christmas: "I have months of work to do; I will throw myself in until the last day… You just have to announce it so early to get the search process [for the next HRD] going."
As part of ongoing restructuring, the BBC recently announced that, by January 2019, it had reduced the number of senior managers by 205 (46%), from 540 in 2010-11 to 245, and the public service broadcasting (PSB) senior management pay-bill by £24.5 million (38%), from £64.1 million in 2010-11 to £39.6 million.
The BBC has also reduced spending in on-air roles, mainly freelancers, in PSB from £194.2 million in 2013-14 to £147.6 million in 2017-18, with the NAO noting that the BBC has ‘improved its strategic planning and control of spend on those in on-air roles’.
Last year a staff consultation resulted in recommendations including more options for flexible working and ensuring all recruitment processes are free from bias, which the BBC says it is now implementing.