09/07/2013 13:23 BST | Updated 08/09/2013 06:12 BST

We Want to Hear Your Views on the Future of Workplace Giving

Normally when a representative from a business receives a letter asking them to come and give evidence in Parliament, I imagine their blood pressure rises a little, and beads of sweat form as they recall the grilling given to prominent businessmen and women by parliamentarians such as the chairs of the Public Accounts Committee and the Treasury Select Committee.

This week will feature a session which is, I hope, a little different, and will be examining the work that is taking place in businesses across Britain in partnership with their employees to support charities through workplace giving.

Earlier in the year I partnered with Andrew Percy MP, Baroness Tyler of Enfield and the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) to launch the Parliamentary Inquiry on Growing Giving. This follows research which shows that charities are increasingly dependent on support from older people, and we're looking at ways of redressing that balance to ensure that people of all ages do what they can to support charity.

We've already found out that young people are extremely charitable in nature, but sometimes struggle to put that intent into action and they are challenging schools, government and charities to make it easier for them to give. Our first session heard evidence from the likes of NUS, NASUWT and young people themselves who explained to us how they thought charities could work with young people to make sure that they grow up with an understanding of the importance of charity, and how they can support good causes.

We're now turning our focus onto giving in the workplace. People live increasingly busy lives, and time pressures mean that many want to be able to support charities whilst they are at work. Many businesses are also showing an interest in improving their relationship with the communities in which they are based, and one way that they are doing this is by strengthening the bonds between business and charity. At the moment the amount of giving through corporate social responsibility is breathtakingly low. Figures show that the total is only 2% of all giving, which is somewhere between £700 and £800million, and 90% of that is given by just 20% of companies. In other words, there is a lot of froth but not a lot of outcome. We're going to try and determine how to make this work better for businesses, employees and charities themselves.

One of the challenges for businesses is to adapt to allow workplace giving schemes such as payroll giving to maximise their potential. Recent research carried out by CAF found that nearly one in three people would be likely to give through their payroll if offered the chance. At present only one in thirty-four employees give in this way, with fewer than 8,500 of the UK's 4.8 million employers giving staff to participate in payroll giving. CAF's research found that widening access to payroll giving could unlock an additional £175million for good causes.

Of course, there are other ways that businesses can support charities, and we'll also be investigating the role that business leaders can play in getting more employees engaged with charity. A recent report produced by the Cabinet Office's Behavioural Insights Team found that sending staff a personalised message about a fund-raising drive from the Chief Executive of a business helped treble the amount of funds raised. This demonstrates the influence that business leaders hold and the role that they can play in inspiring their staff, and we need to harness this potential to get more people giving.

We'll also be taking a look at the business case for giving, asking whether businesses with charitable goals embedded in their core benefit from their philanthropic activity. We've heard anecdotal evidence which suggests that younger job-seekers look for proof of charitable activity when deciding which businesses they want to work for. We'll be looking for evidence of that, and trying to determine whether charitable companies are implementing the business model of the future.

On Wednesday we'll be taking evidence from businesses that already have strong charitable programmes in place, but we're equally interested in those who don't feel that they are able to support charities. If there are barriers in place that are preventing both employees and employers from giving, it's crucial we locate them so that we can chip away at them and make it easier for people to give at work.

Our inquiry is open for business, and we want to hear your views on the future of workplace giving. And keep an eye on the inquiry as we use the evidence we receive to make recommendations on how businesses, the Government and charities can work in partnership to ensure that charitable giving has a bright future in Britain.