The woman who brought superfast broadband to York claims sex discrimination and unfair dismissal

Former TalkTalk programme director Rebecca Burke. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
28 Jan 2020 @ 8.39 pm
| News

A telecoms high-flier who brought superfast broadband to York claims she was paid 40% less than her male colleagues and described her dismissal was a “sham”.

Rebecca Burke, 43, has brought TalkTalk to an employment tribunal claiming sex discrimination as well as unfair dismissal.

The former programme director said her £110,000 salary was 40% below the pay of three of her male colleagues, who had the same job titles and responsibilities.

A central London employment tribunal heard Mrs Burke was hired by TalkTalk in April 2015 to lead the £30 million pilot “Lightning” project to install broadband to tens of thousands of homes in York.

However, after a massive data breach of customers’ details that October, she also stepped in as the programme director for the firm’s Cyber Security Programme.

After managing both programmes for around a year, she received a £5,000 bonus after the breach which caused a publicly announced loss of £60 million, including the loss of 150,000 customers.

Mrs Burke, from Yateley, Hampshire, also said she was unfairly made redundant in May 2017, in a “predetermined” decision when her team was restructured, which she argued was considered as early as that March.

Redundancy was ‘contrived’

The 43-year-old raised an equal pay complaint with TalkTalk three months later after details about her colleagues’ pay emerged during the redundancy appeal.

In her witness statement Mrs Burke said:

  • I believe that my redundancy was a sham.

    It was clear to me that the work required… was being artificially and rigidly divided in order to contrive a reason for my redundancy.

    I had not, previously to the redundancy process, appreciated that my colleagues were regarded as more senior and paid more than me.

    It certainly did not reflect what I saw as the reality of the situation.

Mrs Burke added her male colleagues had the same job titles and responsibilities across the four programmes.

The tribunal heard that when her team was restructured, Mrs Burke was not given the opportunity to apply for other roles at TalkTalk and said she felt bullied by the redundancy process.

Mrs Burke has been supported by a number of equal pay campaigners including former BBC China editor Carrie Gracie.

In a statement Ms Gracie said: “Rebecca has been through a long ordeal and I hope it’s nearly over. I believe all women owe a debt of gratitude to those who are determined enough to call out unequal pay and take their cases before a judge.”

‘Discrimination not tolerated’

TalkTalk deny the claims and say the 40% figure was in comparison to one colleague.

In court documents the firm argues all three men had different salaries in previous roles, different comparative experiences, skills and capabilities.

A TalkTalk spokesman said: “We strongly refute these claims and we do not tolerate gender discrimination of any sort, including with regards to pay.

“This is an on-going case so we cannot comment any further, however we’re committed to treating all our employees fairly and we are confident there is no disparity in pay between genders.”

The tribunal continues.

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