BBC spent £600k on employment claims

The BBC paid out more than £600,000 dealing with employment tribunal claims last year.

A total of £379,125 went in payments to aggrieved staff to settle cases and a further £203,627 plus VAT was spent in external lawyers' fees in 2009-10, figures released by the corporation in response to a Freedom of Information request show.

The BBC had to pay another £24,386 plus VAT as a contribution towards one claimant's legal costs.

This came to a bill for licence fee payers of £607,138 plus tax of at least £34,201, depending on whether the costs were incurred before or after the VAT rate returned to 17.5 per cent in January 2010.

The total does not include work done by in-house employment lawyers or claims brought against BBC Worldwide, the corporation's commercial arm.

Thirty-three employees brought employment tribunal claims against the BBC last year, according to the Freedom of Information response.

Of these, 22 cases were settled, five were withdrawn or dismissed, four are ongoing, one was won in full by the corporation and one was won in part by the claimant.

The BBC recently fought a high-profile employment tribunal claim brought by former Countryfile presenter Miriam O'Reilly.

O'Reilly, 53, claims she was a victim of age and sex discrimination when she was rejected for a role on a revamped prime-time version of the popular rural affairs programme.

The BBC denies the allegations and the tribunal panel has reserved its judgment in the case.

A spokesman for the corporation, which employs about 20,000 people, said: "The BBC is a responsible employer and cases of employment tribunal claims being upheld against us are extremely rare.

"On occasion we have chosen to reach a quick settlement rather than incur expensive legal costs in order to make best use of licence fee payers' money."

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