Working in the Public and Charitable sectors

The public sector and charities are big employers in the UK and offer a huge range of different jobs as well as the benefit of being able to give something back to society.

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The public sector employs one in five of UK workers. Organisations like local authorities, the civil service, universities and major charities employ accountants, marketing executives, investment analysts and top human resources managers on a par with the private sector as well as employing teachers, doctors, social workers, nurses and the like. The NHS is one of the world’s largest employers and offers the kind of range of jobs that can be found in leading multinational organisations. These organisations are also known for their flexible working practices and emphasis on work life balance issues. This tends to be because they employ a large number of female workers..

According to the Office for National Statistics, around 65% of public sector employees are women, compared with around 41% in the private sector. Around 30% work part time, compared with around 24% of private sector workers. The NHS has even higher levels of female staff. For example, the NHS in Manchester employs 2,225 women and just 352 men. Moreover, although men have tended to form the majority of doctors, the number of female doctors is increasing. Some 40% of doctors are now women and the Royal College of Physicians estimates women will make up the majority of GPs by 2013 and will dominate in hospitals by 2017. Many work part time. Some 49% of female GPs and 30% of female hospital consultants work part time. This has big implications for the overall culture of the NHS.

However, it is not just part-time working which is more prevalent in the public and charitable sectors. Other forms of flexible working, including flexitime, home working, term-time working, annualised hours and jobs shares, are more common than in the private sector.

Although the private sector has undergone many changes in recent years, the public sector was an early adopter of flexible working. A 2005 report by the TUC, released just 18 months after flexible working legislation was brought out, showed less than 6% of private sector employees were on flexitime compared to almost a fifth of public sector workers.

Many public sector organisations have introduced innovative ways of providing flexible working. Peterborough City Council’s has reduced service costs in Social Housing from £7m to £5.4m and cut the average time taken for repairs from 20 to seven days by introducing mobile working. Wakefield Council’s transformational programme, Worksmart, encompassing mobile and flexible solutions for 1,000 employees has delivered over £2m of savings from reduced office costs and halved processing times for benefits claims from 50 to 25 day. Wychavon District Council in rural Worcestershire has a staff support programme that is extendable to families, as well as private medical insurance that is 75% subsidised by us. It alxso does not have any core hours, making it very flexible.

In recent years, councils have been catching up with the private sector in terms of the benefits they offer as they seek to attract and keep the best staff. Since November 2007 the local government Pay and Workforce Strategy has recognised that, of councils’ five priorities, having ‘pay and reward structures that attract, retain and develop a skilled and flexible workforce while achieving value for money in service delivery’ must be one of them. Some now offer performance-related pay, childcare vouchers and wellness programmes.

In the charitable sector, recent research by Best Companies for HR magazine says top charities are continuing to offer the kind of hours-related benefits with which they have traditionally been associated, such as compressed hours, sabbaticals and flexitime and are also offering other benefits more associated with the private sector, including career breaks, in order to attract and retain talented staff.

The charitable sector generates over £20bn every year and employs over half a million people over 150,000 organisations. Although traditionally associated with a more amateur approach, this is fast being replaced by a can do attitude, with the pay divide between the private and charity sector narrowing for the bigger organisations and more people making the crossover from the private sector.

Two thirds of charity workers are women and nearly half work part time. However, more degree-educated men are coming into the sector and analysts think this may be in part behind the movement towards more parity with the private sector on the benefits they offer. Nevertheless, Tanya Hill, UK Reward Adviser, Human Resources, for Oxfam GB says her organisation prefers to stick to benefits “which help employees work more effectively”, including childcare vouchers and maternity pay, rather than things like private healthcare insurance and company cars.

As well as applying directly to charities, a good way in is still through the traditional volunteering route. It will get you knownand allow you to find out if the organisation or field is one you are suited to.

Related articles:

Working in a charity: A Case Study
Working for a local authority: A Case Study
Working as a teacher in a job share: A Case Study
Going back to teaching

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