Employers are slowly waking up to the living wage

Helen Burton SUS-150709-171138001
Helen Burton SUS-150709-171138001

Next week is Living Wage week from November 1-7. It is organised by the Living Wage Foundation which is a UK wide organisation that promotes the living wage, celebrates living wage employers and offers advice and support on how to implement the living wage.

So what is the ‘living wage’? Essentially it is a voluntary rate of pay that employers can offer their staff. The rate of pay has been calculated taking into account the cost of living in the UK by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University and is set at £9.15 in London and £7.85 per hour in the rest of the UK. The living wage is the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs including housing, clothing and nutrition.

In contrast the national minimum wage is set by the government and is a legal requirement for employers which is enforced by HM Revenue and Customs. The minimum wage is set at £6.70 per hour but at such a low rate the minimum wage can result in people in work suffering poverty, because the cost of living is in excess of their earnings. This means that families may have to rely on benefits such as tax credits for additional income.

Living Wage Week aims to highlight the issue of fair pay for all and encourage more employers to sign up to the scheme. The number of living wage employers has doubled in the past year and includes banks, FTSE 100 companies, local councils, manufacturers, multi-nationals and small businesses. Lidl was the first supermarket to become a living wage employer and Morrisons have now signed up too. Hopefully the other supermarkets will join the campaign soon as the UK is slowly realising that income levels for the lowest paid are resulting in many families living in poverty and having to rely on Foodbanks for food. According to www.poverty.org.uk around a fifth of the UK are living in poverty, in Eastbourne according to East Sussex County Council figures the amount of families living in poverty rises to a third!

Given these figures let’s encourage the businesses we use locally to become living wage employers. During Living Wage Week talk about the living wage. Explain it to those who don’t know what it is. Support living wage employers and let businesses that don’t offer a living wage know what you think. People power works and all businesses rely on one thing: customers! If businesses become an accredited living wage employer they will be promoted and celebrated by the Living Wage Foundation and can display the Living Wage Employer mark. More importantly the living wage is good for business, good for the individual and good for society as a whole.