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Rates of pay – or no pay – for public appointments deter some groups from applying says Public Appointments Commissioner, Peter Riddell

Blog post by Peter Riddell

Thursday 25 March 2021

A review of pay rates for public appointments made in 2019 – 2020 has been published today showing remuneration is inconsistent and variable, with over half of public appointments receiving no remuneration at all.

Publishing his thematic review, Peter Riddell said:

“One of my main objectives as Commissioner for Public Appointments has been to seek to broaden the range of people who apply for the thousands of positions on public bodies- in order to reflect the range of experience and characteristics of the public generally. I have always favoured a broad definition of diversity – covering not just the statutorily defined protected characteristics of gender, ethnic background and disability, but also age, social background, views, occupation and residence.

“In particular, it became clear to me from conversations that many people in under-represented groups were deterred from applying because they could not afford to do so. This applied, for example, to people with caring responsibilities, people with disabilities, without full-time jobs and the self-employed. At the same time, I heard complaints that the pay offered differed enormously from post to post without apparent reasons – and many roles, particularly at a local rather than a national level, and those associated with the justice system were largely unpaid.

“This thematic review reveals inconsistencies in the pattern of pay for public appointments, reflecting more the adage that ‘this is how it has always been done’ rather than any coherent strategy- with big variations between departments. Above all, it shows there are potential risks to not considering pay and time commitments, and the need for more research, not least into the views of appointees and potential candidates.

“This is the first time this work has been conducted and the review is a small sample – 291 competitions – but thanks to the support of many departments and our research we are able to highlight the main features:

  • Just under 51 per cent of roles were unpaid, but this falls to less than 9 per cent for chairs of public bodies.
  • The average expected time commitment for all unpaid roles was 30 days per year, but the range was from 4 days up to 52 days.
  • On average, five times as many people applied for a role paying £200 a day than an unpaid role.
  • Roles based in the East Midlands, Home Counties and North-West have the lowest average salary, but London does not have the highest.
  • Despite working, on average, the most hours, public appointees declaring disabilities are in roles with below average salaries.
  • Women are less likely to apply to roles with higher time commitments.

Diverse boards make better decisions and have an important role in fostering social inclusion. This research into how appointees are paid and patterns of diversity is the first step. I hope it prompts wider debate about remuneration and diversity for public appointments – focussing not just on ‘high earners, but on the majority of appointments where remuneration is little, or nothing at all. “

Download thematic review of Remuneration and Public Appointments (PDF, 59 pages, 3.9 MB)