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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

One in four charity sector employees earn below the real Living Wage. Let’s change that.

Happy #LivingWageWeek! This week sees the announcement of the updated real Living Wage, calculated according to the cost of living. The Living Wage increase will mean a payrise for hundreds of thousands of people. There are now 3,600 accredited Living Wage Employers that have increased well over 150,000 people’s pay to the Living Wage. Living Wage Employers ensure that all staff, regardless of whether they are direct employees or third-party contracted staff, receive the real Living Wage, significantly higher than the statutory minimum for over 25s (£7.50 per hour introduced in April 2017). This means that those earning less than the real Living Wage could be earning at least £1,852.50 less per year than those on a Living Wage. Across the UK there are still five and a half million people – or 21% of employees – earning below the Living Wage. In the charity sector that rises to 26% (and 29% in Scotland), meaning that one in four charity employees can’t meet the cost of living. A pay rise to the Living Wage makes a huge difference to families (see Dionne’s story, which will make your day!) and has business benefits including increased morale, productivity, staff retention and reduced absenteeism. Our new report, Low Pay in the Charity Sector, reveals that:
  • A third of women (30.4%) in the charity sector earn less than the real Living Wage compared to just a fifth (21%) of men. This is higher than the UK average across sectors (27% women in low paid work) despite women making up the majority (65%) of the workforce in the sector. Overall, almost three quarters (73%) of low-paid charity sector workers are women.
  • People from BAMER backgrounds are particularly affected by low pay, with very high numbers of (62%) ‘Other Asian Background’ and (30%) Black/African/Caribbean/Black British respondents, reporting that they earn below the Living Wage. Overall a lower percentage (8%) of low paid workers in the charity sector are from BAMER backgrounds, compared to the wider workforce (12%), but this may stem from under-representation.
  • Charity workers below the age of 25 are much more likely to experience low pay, with more than half (52.4%) of those between 20 and 24 earning below the real Living Wage, although this does compare favourably with the workforce as a whole (58.4%).
  • Part-time workers are more likely to be affected by low pay (42.7%) compared to just under a fifth (19%) of full-time workers in the charity sector.
  • Smaller charities are more likely to pay below the Living Wage, with majority of low paid employees (77.2%) working for charities with less than 50 employees; higher than in the wider economy (62.3%).
Whilst over 800 charities – such as Macmillan Cancer Support, Dementia UK, Carers UK and Crisis – are already leading the way as accredited Living Wage Employers, there is much more that needs to be done to ensure that charities can pay staff the Living Wage. Whilst it can be difficult for some charities (especially smaller ones) to pay the Living Wage, there are things that can be done to support them to do so. We hope to see more funders and commissioners to enable the real Living Wage, by becoming Living Wage Friendly Funders; funding posts at the Living Wage rate. There are now 31 Friendly Funders promoting Living Wage through their grant-making, including People’s Health Trust, Comic Relief, six Local Authorities (though currently none in Scotland), the Big Lottery Fund, SSE, Standard Life and Lloyds Bank Foundation. We hope you’ll help us to champion the Living Wage in the charity sector! There are lots of ideas for getting involved in our new report and you can also get involved online using #LivingWageWeek and #FriendlyFunders. To find out about becoming an accredited employer please contact the Scottish Living Wage Accreditation Initiative. The data on low pay has been analysed by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and is taken from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) conducted by the Office for National Statistics, where survey respondents self-identify as working for a ‘charity, voluntary organisation or trust’ as their main job or place of work. Figures are based on the 30% of LFS respondents who answered survey questions on their pay. Accordingly, they should be treated with some caution, and are only indicative of wage patterns that may exist in the wider workforce. The LFS is the best available data source on pay in the charity sector.
Last modified on 11 February 2021