Graham Griffiths: The benefits of paying the living wage

Now 18 months on since the start of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, it is clear that the world of work has changed remarkably and irreversibly. With almost two-fifths of the working population working from home, which is up almost 10% from pre-pandemic levels, many of us now have a very different outlook on working and our work-life balance than we did two years ago; just ask the 3.2 million new pets bought throughout the pandemic.

One noticeable effect of this new view on working is a greater focus on better business practices. Here at the Living Wage Foundation, we’ve seen a welcome uptick in the amount of businesses accrediting with us. We had 1,568 new accreditations in 2019, and are already at 1,479 this year.

However, we understand that the past 18 months have come with considerable stresses to businesses, and that some firms are not in a strong enough position to make the move to accredit. Of course, uplifting staff to the real living wage does come at a monetary cost, but for those that are able to make the uplift, the benefits are numerous: greater motivation and productivity, and fewer recruitment costs as employees are less likely to leave the organisation, among others, oftentimes outweighing the initial cost of uplifting.

But the single main benefit of accrediting with the Living Wage Foundation is simple. We asked several of the latest businesses to accredit why they chose to do so, and their answer was unanimous: because it was the right thing to do. The pandemic has brought untold difficulties on all of us, as more than 25% of low-paid workers have had to skip meals in the last year just to get by. With such extraordinary additional pressures, the importance of being paid a wage you need to earn to live has never been more crucial.

And earning the living wage goes beyond just being a financial boost. Workers reported improved mental health, when they’re not worrying about affording the basics, greater relationships with family and friends, and the comfort of having a little saved for a rainy day.

It’s been a tremendously difficult 18 months for us all. But as we look forward and think about creating a stronger, fairer economy, there has never been a better time to consider accrediting with the Foundation and joining the almost 8,000 employers that recognise that a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.

Graham Griffiths is the interim director at the Living Wage Foundation

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