Real Living Wage is good for everyone – staff and employers
Last week was the Living Wage Foundation’s Living Wage Week – and East Kilbride helped the Scottish Government mark the occasion.
I visited construction company AKP Scotland Ltd, based in the Kelvin, along with Keith Brown, the cabinet secretary for economy, jobs and fair work.
And we heard how becoming accredited with the Living Wage Foundation brings benefits to employees, and makes sense to employers.
So, what is the real Living Wage?
Well, it’s a voluntary commitment for employers and set at £8.75 per hour from April next year, whereas the UK Government’s statutory National Living Wage (as recently renamed) is £7.50 – quite a difference.
The real Living Wage rates are higher because they are independently-calculated and are based on what people need to get by.
The Scottish Government is committed to this excellent initiative as promoted by the Poverty Alliance, and during last week the target of reaching 1000 accredited employers by autumn 2017 was reached.
This is the highest rate in the UK – Scotland is the best performing of all four UK countries.
We are home to 1000 of the 3500 accredited companies with 81.6 per cent of Scottish workers earning the real Living Wage.
For many working people, it helps bring some relief when squeezed by stagnant wages and rising inflation.
Better paid work is the best weapon against poverty, inequality and lack of opportunity.
Having a decent wage can help people provide for their families, build self-worth and create a sense of purpose.
The evidence shows, too, that from the employer’s point of view, by paying the Real Living Wage they can benefit from increased commitment and loyalty, reduced absenteeism, higher productivity and enhanced reputation.
Better wages surely mean a better company and better workers.
Two-thirds of Real Living Wage employers report a significant impact on recruitment and retention, whilst 70 per cent of them felt that there was increased customer awareness of their status as an ethical employer.
In East Kilbride, of course, and beyond, there are many more employers who do pay the Real Living Wage – but we want to encourage them to register with the Living Wage Foundation, to show their commitment to fairness at work and encourage others.
Unfortunately, there are many employers who don’t pay the Real Living Wage at all, so the positive advocacy of those that have made the change is important.
That importance was recognised at Friday’s meeting arranged by the Poverty Alliance and hosted at our own excellent South Lanarkshire College.
The speakers were enthusiastic about the Living Wage Foundation Scheme, the college itself became an accredited Living Wage Employer some time ago.
South Lanarkshire Council was ably represented by Councillor John Anderson, with another inspiring East Kilbride company, The Furnishing Service, and the well-respected engineering company DBA completing the East Kilbride line-up. Fair work matters. That’s why the Scottish Government set up the fair work convention, with representation from businesses and academics, public sector and trades’ unions.
Its stated aim is to provide the Scottish Government with clear, independent advice in relation to fair work practices within Scotland.
The powers we have in Scotland are limited in relation to employment law and practice.
But we are determined to do what we can; promotion of the Real Living Wage and the Scottish Business Pledge is important.
Ending exploitative zero hours contracts, encouraging equality in the workplace and ending trial shifts are just some of the steps we promote.
The role of decent pay cannot be underestimated.
East Kilbride has always been an innovative town for business.
And businesses depend on their people.
I was delighted to see in in the town this week that employers recognise this.
As was said over and over again: “Paying the Real Living Wage is not only good for business – it’s the right thing to do”.