This blog follows Living Wage Week and the announcement of the new Real Living Wage levels.
To begin with let me be perfectly clear, I think the Real Living Wage is a good idea. CCVS supports and encourages all organisations to pay the Real Living Wage where ever possible. CCVS pays the Real Living Wage. But we are not registered, and here lies one of my issues.
The Living Wage Foundation are the people who set (through the Living Wage Commission) what the Real Living Wage should be. They are also the people that accredit employers as being a Living Wage employer and let you use their logo. Recently they are also authors on a report into low pay in the Charity sector.
Currently the lowest cost to register as a Real Living Wage employer is £60. For this you get nothing apart from the use of the logo and some publicity. I have asked, and will continue to ask, why registration for small charities can’t be free. I know there is a sliding scale for registration based on numbers of employers, with the lowest figure being for those employing 10 or less people. I think that at this level it should be free, if not for everyone at least for those who are ‘not for profit’. I think that £60 is not a good use of charitable money given what you receive for this. This is simply a money generating exercise for the Foundation. For my £60 I would want more than a gif file and a little sticker to put on the office window.
Could this become an issue?
Many funders have started asking the question of applicants “are you a Real Living Wage employer”, as yet they do not demand that you are registered. This means that we tick ‘yes’ as we do pay all staff over the minimum amount; we also ensure that our suppliers (in our case this is just the cleaning company who service the office) pay the Real Living Wage. We have therefore jumped through the registration hoops, and as long as funders accept this on faith, and do not demand registration we are fine. My guess is that at some stage they will want proof, and the easiest way for them to get that proof is to demand registration as then the Living Wage Foundation do the work.
What we pay staff is important.
Pay in the charity sector is always an issue, if you think otherwise read the comments from this post from one of the more socialist leaning Facebook pages
What we pay staff at both ends of the spectrum is important, as is how we report it. We need to pay people a fair wage for a good day’s work. the Real Living Wage is the current best indicator of this. I would love to display the Real Living Wage Logo and get the positive publicity that it brings. At some stage I think I will have to forgo my principles and pay their registration fee, my trustees will rightly make that call hopefully having listened to my case first. Regardless of this we can look at other ways to show that we are responsible and caring employers. One thing we can do is publish the salary of our senior managers, so in the spirit of openness CCVS pays their CEO £37,400 a year plus a pension contribution worth up to an extra £2,805. We will look at where we declare this on our website.
Equality is important.
As well as the minimum and maximum we pay I think that the ratio between highest and lowest is also an important indicator. We are all about equality and fairness in the sector and whilst different jobs will have different salaries is anyone really worth 10 or 20 times more than someone else in the organisation. NCVO and others have called for charities to publish their salary ratios. Latest figures show that at NCVO the ratio is 1:3.8 but this is the highest salary to the median salary, similarly Save the Children is 1:4 (again using the median not the lowest salary). There is more data on lots of organisations here, but much of this is out of date. The Guardian wrote in 2014 that for charities with 100 – 500 employees the ratio was 1:5.
Once again in the spirit of openness the CCVS ration is 1:1.8 based on the lowest and not the median salary. My guess is that many small organisations will have ratios similar to ours, and possibly lower. Small staff teams and smaller budgets will inevitably be reflected in lower ratios. I also imagine that many small organisations would find themselves as Real Living Wage employers as small numbers of staff in specialist roles will mean that most will earn over £16,835 a year which is what the living wage equates to for a 37-hour week.
For many small charities recognition that they are paying a fair wage would be important. We do not exist to rip people off or impoverish them as we go about our work to help others. I would suggest that organisations published this type of data, that they were given free registration, and that trustees continued to ensure their staff were treated fairly whilst using their charitable income to the best effect.
Interns, Volunteers and the Unemployed.
There is another blog here. Suffice to say that all interns should be paid the Real Living Wage. Volunteers are fantastic, essential and invaluable – but they must not be used to replace redundant staff to simply save money. If the Real Living Wage represents the amount you need to earn to live why are first year apprentices only paid £3.50 an hour, and why are benefits capped at £1.98 an hour? Surely those in training and those who are unemployed have to survive as well.