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first_imgRelated posts:No related photos. Charities in need of equal pay auditsOn 28 Jan 2003 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. The equal pay gap is widening in the voluntary sector, andcharities are being urged to perform salary audits now – or face a deluge ofcompensation claims in the future.  ByMike BroadPlummeting income levels are the current preoccupation of the voluntarysector. The larger charities have watched their endowments devalue with eachsuccessive crash in the stock market, and new figures suggest that corporategiving is tailing off fast. But the challenges facing the sector do not concern income alone. There arepotentially high costs hidden within many charities’ payroll systems. Two recent studies show a significant pay gap between men and women workingin the voluntary sector – despite 30 years of anti-discriminatory legislation.The gap is particularly severe at management level, and could become acompensation time bomb if left unchallenged. Female chief executives of charities earn 88 per cent of their maleequivalents salaries, while deputy chief executives are paid just 79 per cent,claims research by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). Research by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations(Acevo) shows that male finance and fundraising directors currently earn atleast £5,000 more than women in the same role. Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, said: “We are still seeing abig gap between men and women’s salaries, and it’s time for a wake up call. “There is a problem if we espouse equality and justice as a sector, andfind that our own practice is not exemplifying that,” he added. But charities risk more than just losing the moral high ground. Branding – akey commodity in the voluntary sector – is also under threat. Julie Mellor, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), urgescharities to perform equal pay reviews to tackle the problem. “Organisations are risking their reputations as fair employers, whichwill affect their ability to recruit and retain people with the rightskills,” she said. “A pay audit can reveal the under-use of women’s skills, and a lack offlexibility at work preventing their progression. It makes business sense totackle this waste of resources.” But compensation culture presents the biggest threat, as figures suggestthat charities are vulnerable to tribunal claims. There were more than 24,000 applications to employment tribunals last yearconcerning equal pay or sex discrimination, with the average award totalling£19,279. The threat of litigation is set to rise this year, with the introduction ofan equal pay questionnaire as part of the forthcoming Employment Act. Femalestaff members will be able to ask their employers for the pay rates of otheremployees, and the reasons for them. The answers will be admissible as evidence in tribunal claims, and legalexperts predict this will cause a rash of tribunals. NCH Action for Children is one of the Government’s Equal Pay Champions –organisations that conduct and promote the use of equal pay audits. Initialfindings suggest the charity does not have a gender pay problem, but HRdirector Janice Cook still believes it is a worthwhile exercise. She said: “It shows our 6,000 employees that our organisational valuesare in place. Publishing audit results shows that you are fair, open andtransparent.” But many in the third sector believe the figures reflect a lack of women insenior roles in large charities, rather than unequal pay. Geraldine Peacock, chief executive of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association,is one of only five women in the top job at charities with annual incomes ofmore than £10m. She said: “Women run small charities, and men run big ones – it leadsto men being paid more.” Clare Smith, HR director of care provider Leonard Cheshire, agreed:”While organisations cannot assume that they are equal pay employers, itis more important that chief executives and directors sit down, examine howmany women they have in senior positions, and ask themselves whether they havemade enough of an effort to achieve a gender balance,” she said. When Peacock joined the Guide Dogs Association in 1997, its entire board wasmale. Now women outnumber men by five to three. She believes successful womenmust act as role models, and charities need to create career developmentprogrammes. But Peacock admits there is still a long way to go. She recently received 90applications for the finance director vacancy at her charity. Two of them werewomen. She said the tendency for boards of trustees to recruit in their own imagehas presented a glass ceiling to female employees. “Women have to be fairly represented on boards of trustees as this willboth send a clear message about the role of women within the charity andincrease the likelihood of fair and representative recruitment practices. “The choice of head hunters is important, too, as senior posts in thevoluntary sector are traditionally handled by mainly male recruiters,” shesaid. Acevo’s Bubb believes the low take-up of work-life balance practices such asflexible and home working, is also hindering women’s progress up the careerladder, and the reduction of the gender pay gap. He said: “Is it good enough that just 24 per cent of charities have apolicy promoting work-life balance? And only a small number provide childcaresupport. For a sector that places such high value on diversity and equality,this is definitely not good news.” Grant-giving organisations are also to blame for the predominance of white,middle class men on the boards of large charities, said Joanna Wootten, HRservices manager at NCVO. “The real challenge for the voluntary sector is persuading funders –including the general public – that an integral part of supporting good causes involvesproviding for adequate training and staff development,” she said. “With more investment, charities could set up structured fast- trackprogrammes and mentoring schemes to enable women, ethnic minorities anddisabled people to take the helm at more of our larger charities.” There is increasing pressure for equal pay audits to become mandatory. Sofar, the Government has advocated a voluntary, best practice approach. But theEOC’s Mellor warns that slow take-up by employers could harden this stance. Research by DLA MCG Consulting shows that more than eight out of 10employers are at risk from equal pay claims. Charities must react now, beforethey end up having to settle attention-grabbing claims. Previous Article Next Articlelast_img read more