Opinion: Gender pay reporting can be a positive for charities

Many charities face a tough time as they try to juggle never-ending funding cuts with growing needs in our communities. They’re encouraged to act like businesses, to be more commercial and run a tight ship, as if they exist for the benefit of profit-hungry shareholders instead of those most at need in our society.

Recent negative media coverage has damaged public trust in the sector and many charities may find the spotlight on diversity created by the gender pay gap reporting unwelcome. While many charities have fewer than 250 employees, and haven’t had to comply with gender pay reporting, not doing so could be a missed opportunity for smaller charities to promote their employment practices. After all, equality and diversity have been at the heart of the way the sector has operated for years.

Some charities with fewer than 250 employees have still done the required analysis, publishing the results on a voluntary basis, and there are many reasons why this may be considered the right move for your charity too.

1) Honesty all the way

Disclosing information you aren’t legally forced to sends out a positive statement to the public and your stakeholders, whether that is beneficiaries, donors or both current and future employees. It says that you have nothing to hide and speaks volumes about your integrity.

2) No news like good news

The sector has traditionally employed a high percentage of female staff and typically held a positive stance on fairness and quality in the workplace. For many charities, their gender pay gap report could tell a very positive story and even be something that helps to set a charity apart.

3) What if it’s broken?

You can’t start to fix something if you don’t know it’s broken. Preparing pay gap information can identify discrepancies you weren’t aware of, and for some charities below the mandatory reporting threshold it may be easier to investigate, understand and address such discrepancies quickly as they may be on a smaller scale.

4) Attracting top talent

A charity may find it easier to attract top talent when recruiting if it can clearly demonstrate it is committed to being a fair and equal employer that embraces the values of honesty and integrity. Retention and morale of existing staff could also be improved.

5) Wider engagement

A charity may find more doors are open and it’s easier to engage with a wider section of the public after demonstrating such equality.

While the charitable sector does seem to be ahead of its corporate counterparts with the gender pay gap, there is still much to be done at trustee level. For example, the average age of a trustee is 55-64 years old, and 71 per cent of charity chairs and 68 per cent of charity treasurers are male, which is clearly not representative of the wider population and is to the sectors detriment.

The concepts of accountability, transparency and equality play a growing part in the charity sector, creating an opportunity and competitive advantage for those ready for it. At a time when public trust in charities is declining, it’s a stark reminder of how critical good governance is to success.

Cara Miller is partner at MHA MacIntyre Hudson.

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