The Sunday Times Rich List was published yesterday with an unknown man at the top of it – Jim Ratcliffe, a joiner’s son, who has made his money from chemicals and fracking. I am sure that won’t go unnoticed by the environmental lobbyists. This list, published once a year, started in 1989. In the first year, Queen Elizabeth II was at the top of it, now she is much, much lower. Not that she is necessarily that much poorer, more than many other people are considerably richer. The list has gone from being dominated by inherited wealth to featuring many more self-made billionaires now on the list.
Now I realise that for many of these entrepreneurs this is paper money and not reflected in salary, but I am sure it often is. One very rich CEO, reported in the news recently, Jeff Fairburn paid himself at Persimmon Homes a £100M bonus. Even the fat cats in the city seemed annoyed by this but were then too gutless to vote against it when it came to a vote, abstaining rather than voting against, so it went through by 51.4% to 48.6%. How anyone can justify paying themselves that kind of bonus is completely abhorrent in my eyes. What is even more disgusting being that this same company was in the news the previous year for breaking minimum wage rules.
Now, I know no companies within the speciality food world will have anything like this kind of gap between its lowest and highest paid workers. Indeed, I know of no company within our sector that is turning over more than the bonus of Jeff Fairburn! However, just as we should measure any gender pay gap and do something about it, so also should we look at the pay multiple between our top and lowest earners. This is something that we and other B Corps must measure as part of our assessment. Anything less than a multiple of 5 scores top points. I think we were around 3.5. Having a huge gap between the top and bottom creates resentment, unhappiness and lack of productivity. People understand that responsibility, training, qualifications and experience mean that some people within their company are paid more, but when this gap is ridiculous, it creates resentment.
For most of the life of Cotswold Fayre, I have not been the highest earner within the company, which I think is important as a growing business. This year just gone, we had a good one and everyone who works at Cotswold Fayre earned a bonus. It was the same amount of money, whether you were a director or not and whether you were full- or part-time or not. This was part of what are doing to redress the balance. I realise that we have a way to go but these things matter, more than you might think!