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Living Wage employees wake up to a pay rise

Many employees in the UK woke up to good news this morning - a pay rise. An increase in the Living Wage means an increase in pay. As more businesses sign up to be Living Wage employers, even more workers stand to take home higher wages.

At a Living Wage Week 2017 event at the Lush Soho offices in London today [06/11/17], a new Living Wage rate was announced as £8.75; 30p higher than the previous rate. This new figure, based on the actual cost of living, now trumps the mandatory minimum wage by £1.25.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan took to the stage to announce the new London Living Wage of £10.20 per hour, which is 45p higher than before. He said: “I want to make sure that no-one who goes to work every day has to endure the indignity of poverty.”

At the heart of the Living Wage Foundation is the idea that a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. The rates from the foundation (sometimes called the ‘Real Living Wage’) are calculated annually, and based on what people need in order to live. This is not the same as the government’s National Living Wage, which is set at £7.50 an hour for over 25s, and is mandatory.

Following today’s announcement, over 150,000 workers in the UK will see an increase in their pay, and the number of people standing to benefit could increase further as more and more employers sign up. Joining the likes of IKEA, Lush, and Aviva, companies including the National Gallery, Heathrow Airport, and Somerset House have become accredited Living Wage employers this week.

Katherine Chapman, director of the Living Wage Foundation, says that over 3,600 employers have now signed up to the voluntary scheme, including 1,000 in the last year. However, she says that the job is not yet done, and in work poverty is still very much an issue.

New research published by KPMG shows that 5.5 million people across the UK are still paid less than the real Living Wage, which equates to 21% of the UK workforce.

Katherine says the Living Wage is not only the right thing to do, but also makes good business sense: “Nine out of ten accredited Living Wage employers report real benefits including improved retention, reputation, recruitment and staff motivation.”

Sadiq Khan champions the Living Wage

After today’s announcement, Sadiq Khan told the Lush Times: “There are still too many Londoners who do the right thing, who do a hard day’s work, and who are still struggling.”

The London Mayor wants to see more businesses committing to the Living Wage. To achieve this, he encourages Living Wage employers to explain their experiences to other businesses.

He said: “The Living Wage is about encouraging employers to pay a higher base salary. I call it a floor, not a ceiling.”

He recognises that achieving the Living Wage might be unrealistic for some small employers. For this reason, having a national minimum wage which is as high as it can be is important, he says.

When asked whether other UK cities should follow London’s lead and implement their own city-specific living wages, he said, “Absolutely. We’ve got to recognise that there’s a responsibility in cities, because people go there to work, to make sure they can live with dignity. As much as it’s brilliant to live in a city, it’s more expensive.”

People standing up for pay

Alongside the Mayor of London, and representatives from the Living Wage Foundation, workers and employers directly impacted by the Living Wage shared their experiences. Dawn Ferdinand, headteacher at the Living Wage-paying Willow Primary School, was one of those people. She said that this is a story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things: “Whether that is bravely speaking up, or asking a tough question, or celebrating good news, it has made an enormous difference and it must not stop here.”

Dawn echoed the feeling that everyone at the event conveyed: stories of the Living Wage must be shared, employers paying responsibly should be celebrated, and more employers should be encouraged to join.

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