Woman holding bill with hand over her face in distress

‘We need to combat low pay in the voluntary sector’

Published: 16/11/21 | Categories: Funding,Information & support, Author: Tessa White

To mark Living Wage Week 2021 Tessa White, Head of IB Grants & Verification at WCVA, examines why paying employees a real Living Wage is so important, especially today.

This is an update of an article published in November 2020.

This week is Living Wage Week.

We are celebrating over 8,000 employers across the UK who have signed up to paying the real Living Wage to their employees.

The Living Wage is independently calculated to reflect the true cost of living and updated annually. There isn’t a lower rate for younger employees – because there isn’t a lower cost of living for younger employees.

You can see the new rates announced on 15 November on Cynnal Cymru’s website or at Living Wage Foundation here.


The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how much the country depends on workers in the public, private and voluntary sectors, who may only be paid at the national minimum wage and possibly also claiming benefits whilst working at risk to keep hospitals, care homes, supermarkets and community services going

In work poverty continues to rise and therefore the number of children living in poverty. Some groups of people are affected more than others: women, people from ethnic minority communities, disabled people and young people; and some sectors more than others including care, the arts, hospitality and the voluntary sector.

Competitive tendering for contracts and awards based on cheapest cost per head contribute to the ‘race to the bottom’ in paying workers the lowest possible wages: however, employers paying the real Living Wage have found that the improvements made to staff retention, morale, quality of work, reputation and productivity have made it worthwhile.


We need to combat low pay in the voluntary sector and the idea that keeping staff pay as low as possible in some way maximises charitable activities. In fact, what happens is that the effects of low pay may then end up being addressed through a different activity: food banks, support for children in poverty, mental health services, etc.

UK wide, voluntary sector Living Wage employers account for just 28% of the total, but it’s good to know that for Wales-only employers, it’s 34%. At WCVA we’re doing our best to contribute to this by being a Living Wage Funder, committed to encouraging the organisations we support through funding to pay the real Living Wage, for example, through our European Funds schemes: the Active Inclusion Fund and Social Business Growth Fund.

There are many other funders – you can see the full list here – and of the total 54, three are for Wales only: WCVA, Interlink RCT and Building Communities Trust.

The more employers and funders sign up to pay and support the real Living Wage, the more it will become the norm and contribute to reducing poverty.


Living Wage Week takes place this year from 15-21 November 2021. The Living Wage is supported in Wales by WCVA’s sister organisation, Cynnal Cymru.

If you have any questions regarding Living Wage Week in Wales or would like to get involved please contact bethan@cynnalcymru.com.

You can follow and support Living Wage Week on social media using #LivingWageWeek and #WythnosCyflogByw.