Let’s tackle low pay in the voluntary sector

Chris Anderson, our Director of Grant Making South looks at the implications of a living wage for small charities and the voluntary sector. 

It’s Living Wage Week this week. This is a great opportunity to celebrate those organisations who have taken the decision to pay their staff a fair wage, but it’s also an opportunity for us to take a step back and consider the implications for those individuals earning less than a living wage.

We signed up to become a Living Wage Friendly Funder earlier this year. Not only does this mean we pay our own staff the living wage, but we are also working to encourage small charities seeking grants from us for specific posts to also ensure these posts are paid a living wage.living-wage-friendly-funder

Given than many of the charities we support are dealing with the impact of poverty on a daily basis (and despite wanting to do the right thing), paying the living wage to their staff can often be a challenge for small charities where funding is always stretched. In fact, many people are still surprised to find out that staff working for small charities get paid at all.

Yes, charities do pay their staff and rightly so. Small charities are full of dedicated, professional individuals who support some of the most disadvantaged and at risk members of our communities.

They work tirelessly in challenging environments and they do so with remarkable enthusiasm and energy. Its only right that they are paid a fair wage that enables them to live and provide for their own families.

Charities often tell us that funders or commissioners sometimes make assumptions that people will want to work in the voluntary sector and are happy to accept low pay because they are committed to a cause or making a difference. Some charities have even had to resort to lower wages through zero hours’ contracts so they can secure contracts for public services that they may have been delivering for years.

So what does this mean in practice for us as a Foundation? Well for new grants we award from January 2017 onwards, we have made a clear commitment to fund any salaries that our grants support at the Living Wage levels.  It’s not a mandatory requirement but as our Grant Managers carry out their assessment visits to charities applying to us for grants, they will be positively encouraging these charities to consider bringing their pay levels up.

We’re therefore pleased that we can go the extra mile and not only provide funds for the work of small charities but put pounds in the pockets of those who have dedicated their lives to making a difference.

We want to end low pay in the voluntary and community sector. And if small charities are supported to do this, there’s absolutely no reason why larger charities, businesses and others funders can’t follow suit.

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