Richer Sounds and SSE support new campaign to tackle low pay

Katherine Chapman

Retail organisation Richer Sounds, energy business SSE and investment firm Standard Life Aberdeen have been accredited as living hours employers as part of a new initiative by the Living Wage Foundation.

The Living Hours campaign, which launched this week, has been designed to tackle insecurity around employee pay and hours, and to provide individuals with more control over all aspects of their lives.

Organisations that support the campaign will be required to pay staff the voluntary living wage rate, currently set at £9.00 an hour for employees across the UK and £10.55 an hour for those in London. Employers will also need to provide staff with at least four weeks’ notice of shifts and a contract that accurately reflects the hours they work, as well as guaranteeing a minimum working pattern of 16 hours a week.

Employers that commit to the Living Hours pledge will be accredited as a living hours employer, alongside their living wage accreditation.

Katherine Chapman (pictured), director at the Living Wage Foundation, said: “The living wage has put almost £1 billion extra into the pockets of more than 200,000 [employees], but it’s increasingly clear that pay is not the only driver of in-work poverty. A lack of secure, stable hours is leaving millions of families struggling to keep their heads above water. This isn’t good for [employees] or businesses.

“Constant uncertainty over the number of hours, timings of shifts or the amount of pay [staff will] get each week places people under enormous pressure. A shift cancelled at the last minute might sound small, but it can be the difference between being able to pay for [a] family’s dinner that night or going hungry, and being expected to work at short notice means [people] can’t plan around other costs and commitments.

“We’ve consulted with hundreds of [employees], employers and trade unions in drawing up these measures to ensure they are ambitious but achievable. We believe Living Hours will provide an important new measure to fight in-work poverty and to provide [staff] and their families with stability and security.”

Research conducted in line with the campaign’s launch found that 5.1 million employees learn less than the living wage rate of pay and are in a form of insecure work; 2 million of these individuals are also parents. A fifth (22%) of employees aged between 16 and 24 are employed in low-paid, insecure work, compared to 46% aged over 35.

Furthermore, 15% of white employees experience low pay and unpredictable working patterns in comparison to 17% of staff from mixed or multiple ethnic groups, 17% of Asian or Asian British employees and 17% of those who are black, African, Caribbean or black British.

The living wage is an independently set hourly rate of pay that is calculated according to the basic costs of living. Employers pay the living wage rate, which is updated annually, on a voluntary basis. The higher London living wage reflects the increased living costs associated with residing in the capital.

The voluntary living wage is distinct from the statutory national living wage, which is paid to employees aged 25 and over. The national living wage rate is currently set at £7.83 an hour.

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Julian Richer, founder and managing director at Richer Sounds, said: “If [we] treat the people who work for [us] well, [we are] going to have happier, more motivated staff, and ones that stay with [the business] for years. That makes a huge difference, and that’s what I’ve found paying the living wage. We just need more businesses to realise this. Offering Living Hours is a great way to provide [staff] with security, but it’s also going to help businesses in the long-run.”

John Stewart, director of HR at SSE, added: “The Living Wage campaign has made huge strides in ending in-work poverty. But there is another side of the coin; the number of hours worked and the security of those hours. This brand new campaign to create an employer culture of Living Hours has the potential to do so much more and as a business we are very proud to be a part of it.”