06980-18 Nisbet v The Sunday Times

Decision: Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

Decision of the Complaints Committee 06980-18 Nisbet v The Sunday Times

Summary of Complaint

1. Michael Nisbet complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sunday Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice in an article headlined “I'll teach women to bag a pay rise, says [named peer]” published on 21 October 2018.

2. The article reported on initiatives set up by [named peer] in an attempt to reduce the gender pay gap. It said that “Official figures show that, on average, for every £1 a man makes, a woman earns 86p for the same job”.

3. The article appeared in much the same format online under the headline " I’ll teach women to bag a pay rise, says [named peer]” also published on 21 October 2018.

4. The complainant said that this statement was inaccurate as official figures did not show the claim made in the statement in relation to the gender pay gap. He explained that, in relation to the gender pay gap, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) had released a figure of 8.6% for full-time jobs (rather than 14%) and this figure reflected the pay difference across a mix of full-time jobs and not a pay difference for the same job. Furthermore, the complainant said that it was inaccurate for the article to describe the official figures as an “average” in circumstances where the figure released by the ONS in respect of the gender pay gap reflected median hourly earnings.

5. The publication had based the statement on information which had been published by the ONS, but accepted that its presentation of the information was inaccurate. As well as circulating an explanatory memo to all journalists explaining the definition of the gender pay gap and reminding them to take care when reporting statistics, it offered to remove the statement from the online article, as well as publishing the following correction in its dedicated Corrections and Clarifications column online and in print:

“Our article ‘I’ll teach women to bag a pay rise, says [named peer]’ (Money, Oct 21) reported incorrectly that official figures show that women are paid 86p for each £1 men receive for the same job. The current gender pay gap of 8.6% which is calculated by the ONS refers to the difference between gross median hourly earnings (excluding overtime) of men and women in full time work across the whole economy- it does not show the difference between what men and women get paid for identical jobs. According to these findings, women are currently paid on average 91.4p for each £1 a man receives.”

Relevant Code Provisions

6. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Findings of the Committee

7.  It was accepted that the publication had failed to take care when reporting available official figures; it had inaccurately reported a figure for the current gender pay gap and gave the misleading impression that the gender pay gap measured differences in pay between identical jobs. This amounted to  a breach of Clause 1 (i) and was a significant inaccuracy which required correction under the terms of Clause 1(ii).

8. The article was entitled to characterise a median figure as an “average” figure and this was not misleading or inaccurate in the context of an article which was reporting on the initiatives of the named peer rather than presenting a comprehensive analysis of the gender pay gap. There was no breach of Clause 1(i) on this point, but the Committee welcomed the clarification as to the type of average being referred to in the offered correction.

9. The correction offered by the publication clearly identified the inaccuracies in the statement and set out  the correct position in accordance with the figure released by the ONS.  The correction was offered promptly and publication in the dedicated Corrections and Clarifications column represented due prominence. The Committee also noted that the publication had offered to remove the statement from the online version of the article, and had instigated further training with journalists to avoid a repeat of the mistake. These measures satisfied the requirements of Clause 1 (ii); there was no further breach.


10. The complaint was upheld.

Remedial action required

11. Having upheld the complaint under Clause 1(i), the Committee considered what remedial action should be required.

12. In satisfaction of Clause 1 (ii), the newspaper had promptly offered a correction which corrected the inaccuracy with due prominence, which should now be published.

Date complaint received: 23/10/2018

Date decision issued: 11/01/2019

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