The Social Metrics Commission’s Measuring poverty report, published in July 2019, found that 14 million people are now in poverty, with four million trapped in ‘deep poverty’, with incomes at least 50% below the official breadline. What is perhaps equally as shocking is that many of these people are in work.
Around two-thirds of UK children and working age adults living in poverty are in working households, and according to October 2018 figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), approximately six million workers are paid less than the real living wage. That means that millions of people are working hard, and often for long hours, but struggling to keep their heads above water.
For employers, there is one clear way to help: the living wage. The campaign for the living wage began in 2001 with cleaners and community organisations in East London; there are now well over 5,000 accredited living wage employers throughout the UK, including more than a third of the FTSE 100, as well as household names like Aviva, Everton FC, Heathrow, Ikea and Burberry.
These employers commit to paying all directly employed staff and onsite contractors the real living wage, which is independently calculated, based on what it costs to live in London and the UK. Together, living wage employers have put nearly £1 billion back into the pockets of low-paid workers.
These organisations are leading the way on responsible employment, and are reaping the rewards; the majority of living wage employers report significant benefits following their accreditation, including greater motivation and retention.
When employees no longer have to worry about falling into debt, or affording basic necessities, they are happier, healthier and more productive. More broadly, employees want to work for an organisation that treats its workforce fairly.
As our accredited employers tell us, paying the living wage is not only good for people and families, but it is also good for business.
Katherine Chapman is director at the Living Wage Foundation