Is June Sarpong's BBC salary too much for a three-day week?


June Sarpong's salary as diversity champion for the BBC has been brought into question.

The public broadcaster has been criticised after disclosing in its annual report that Sarpong earns £267,000 a year for working a three-day week as the corporation’s director of creative diversity.

Sarpong was appointed as the BBC's first creative diversity director in 2019 as the organisation said it wanted to achieve real change in increasing the number of ethnic minorities and disabled people on screen.

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Some have criticised Sarpong's pay packet given her celebrity status and that her working week is shorter than the typical five days.

Speaking to the Sunday Paper, former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said: “How can anyone be worth paying £267,000 for working three days a week?

“Once again the BBC has scored an own goal. There must be thousands of perfectly qualified people who would do this job for less.”

Yet, Caitlin Bethell, head of psychology at diversity and inclusion consultancy In Diverse Company, said the number of days Sarpong, or any head of diversity, works should not impact their pay.

Speaking to HR magazine, Bethell said: “Essentially the role is important if we want to make change, the BBC are hugely influential, and if Sarpong is delivering her objectives in three days that shouldn't matter.

“She should be paid fairly, recognising the contributions she is making.”

D&I roles such as Sarpong’s are essential, Bethell added.

"D&I roles are vital for large organisations in order to ensure that current employees, and future hires, are being treated fairly, with respect and are able to bring their full selves and ideas to work," she said.

Televised in so many homes across the UK means the BBC’s actions also have direct impact on the general public.

Bethell added: “Large businesses have a role to play, as role models in becoming more inclusive, allowing their employees to feel empowered to share their experiences and be heard,

“They also provide opportunities to people who may not have necessarily had them before,” she explained.

Martin Tiplady, CEO of Chameleon People Solutions, said he thinks HR teams will welcome the BBC having such a high-profile role championing diversity.

He told HR magazine: “It is an organisation that contains many challenges on the diversity front, sets the pace for others to follow and is at the forefront of all things that matter in terms of setting the agenda.

“Good for them for having such a high-profile lead in the role, Sarpong has an immense profile and will represent change.”

While the salary sounds highs, Tipladay added that it seems reasonable compared to the salaries of other BBC staff.

“Simply to pick up on one salary and individual says more about those that do the asking rather than the issue itself. 

“I suspect there are many more pertinent salaries questions to ask than this one alone. The fact that she works part time is a complete irrelevance to the issue,” he said. 

A BBC spokesman defended Sarpong’s salary and said she plays a vital role in ensuring the organisation is as diverse as possible.

They said: “Audiences from all backgrounds and communities must see themselves represented in our programmes. This is an absolute priority for the BBC.

“Sarpong is delivering the BBC's first creative diversity strategy and has overseen our most significant financial investment in diverse content on and off air.”

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