The living wage movement gathers momentum

With Scottish football club Hearts and cinema chain Curzon agreeing to pay staff an hourly rate above the minimum wage, are employers beginning to recognise that employees need more to make ends meet.

The Living Wage Foundation began operation in 2011 in an effort to create a more representative hourly rate, ‘set independently and updated annually’ based on the basic cost of living in the UK.

Whereas the current British minimum wage stands at £6.50, the UK living wage rate sits at £7.65 and London rate at £8.80 – a big difference when it comes to take-home pay at the end of the week or month.

Signing up to become a living wage employer is a voluntary thing, but so far the likes of Barclays, ITV, Transport for London and Lush have joined the movement. Of the 825 accredited living wage employers on the Living Wage Foundation website, 373 are in the private sector, 306 in the third sector and 146 in the public sector.

The most active sector, unsurprisingly, is charity – followed by the likes of housing, media/communications and law.

In an era when a lot of noise has been made about wages not accurately tracking the rising cost of living, employers deciding to become part of the scheme are helping the lowest paid in society.

While there are no shortage of large organisations such as Goldman Sachs, HSBC and Nestle now paying the living wage, it has been interesting to see the latest additions.

Arthouse cinema chain Curzon, which has nine locations in England, has committed to paying front-of-house staff the London living wage at its six cinemas in the capital.

This week also saw Edinburgh-based football club Hearts become the first Scottish team making the pledge. This will involve all staff employed on a part-time and contract basis.

Cost of living is set to be one of the hot topics at next year’s general election, with Labour already picking the issue up as part of its pre-vote rhetoric. The battle to also encourage those reluctant to move out of benefit-assisted living also needs some help, and an increase in basic pay is sure stimulate that.

There is no doubt that a £2.30 increase for London-based business minimum wages will have an impact on the bottom line, but it could be a great way to boost staff retention and acknowledge that the struggles of employees are being noted.

Is joining the Living Wage Foundation something you and your business is considering? Please let us know your views.

This will be my lost column as editor of GrowthBusiness, after being at the helm since January 2012. I’ve greatly enjoyed your ongoing commitment and contribution as readers.


Hunter Ruthven

Bernard Williamson

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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