EDITORIAL: Voluntary sector should focus on closing pay gap

Lucy Maggs

Voluntary sector pay levels tend to lag way behind those of other sectors. But as more partnerships are set up with other sectors and expectations of professional standards in voluntary organisations are raised, there seems little justification for this.

Voluntary sector involvement in public service delivery is going to put more strain on employees as the government demands that organisations are more transparent and accountable. The contracting-out culture means that voluntary sector staff will find themselves working alongside public and private sector employees, and any pay differences will become apparent.

A survey this week shows that voluntary sector pay rises have centred on 3 per cent in the past year, which is on a par with other sectors.

A number of organisations offered employees rises of more than 3.5 per cent, and Oxfam gave more than 3,000 staff a rise of 6.7 per cent. This makes a positive contrast to last year when pay settlements fell far behind.

Although pay levels are not falling further behind other sectors, which is a step in the right direction, the voluntary sector is not yet closing the gap. A survey last year from the Reward Group showed that pay levels were lagging behind other sectors - chief executives of charities were earning nearly £20,000 less than their counterparts, and directors came in with a difference of almost £10,000.

Matching the fat cat salaries of some private sector companies is obviously not feasible for most charities, and they will never have to do this as they are in the enviable position of having committed staff, whose prime motivation is not financial. But pressure on these employees is increasing and if pay levels are not raised to match, or at least compare with, those in other areas, the voluntary sector is going to find it impossible to recruit the high calibre staff it needs.

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