Real Living Wage is a game-changer for workers and employers in Fife

Friday, 28 April 2017

Poverty across all sections of society is shaping up to be one of the big talking points in the countdown to the General Election on June 8.

It comes after the Scottish Parliament published figures in November 2016 saying that 28,000 people in Fife were not earning the real Living Wage.

The issue was underlined further when survey results just released by The Poverty Alliance revealed that hard-up workers in Fife are struggling to put food on the table, with one-in-five (19%) of people polled in the Mid-Scotland & Fife area admitting to regularly skipping meals to save money.

Shockingly, many are also falling behind on bills, rent and mortgage payments, topping up their incomes with credit cards and loans, and borrowing to get by.

On a more positive note, however, over 25,000 people in Scotland have had a pay rise thanks to the Poverty Alliance’s real Living Wage Initiative, which is supported by the Scottish Government.

And the very real social and economic advantages of paying the real Living Wage have been embraced by employers in Fife, with over 30 signed up already, including: A Life Explored (Care) Ltd., AV department Ltd., ATAG Heating, Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd., Carnegie UK Trust, Citizen’s Advice & Rights Fife Ltd., CORGI HomePlan Ltd., Crannoch Residential Child Care Resource Ltd., Drugs, Alcohol & Phychotherapies Ltd (DAPL), East Neuk Home Care, EQ Travel Management, Falkland House School, Fife Council, Fife Gingerbread, Fife Shopmobility Ltd., Fife Voluntary Action, Fords Daly Legal, Gallus Events, Gibson Training and Care Ltd., Hardies Property and Construction Consultants, In Equilibrium, Insolvency Support Services, Moffat Electrictal Projects, Pandaprint, Pipework Systems & Installation Ltd., St Andrews Management Centre Ltd., Swiis Foster Care Scotland, Total Beverage Solutions Ltd., Unison Fife Branch, Utility ROV Services Ltd., Voluntary Action Fund, Youth 1st (SCIO).

Poverty Alliance Accreditation Officer, Lynn Anderson’s remit is Scotland-wide, but she picked Fife as one of the four regions where the team wants to promote greater levels of accreditation. Lynn saw the brutal effects of poverty on the most vulnerable people in Scotland during her time with Citizens Advice Direct, and this experience made her determined to become “part of the solution”. In this Q&A, she explains how she plans to persuade more Fife employers to pay the real Living Wage of £8.45 per hour ...

Why were you drawn to this line of work?

“After graduating from Glasgow University with a degree in Public Policy, I worked for a range of Third Sector employers, including the Wisegroup, Energy Savings Trust and over four years in a management role with Citizens Advice Direct.

“At Citizens Advice, I saw first-hand that more and more people were in crisis - struggling with benefit cuts, debt and employment problems. It made me determined to be part of the solution.

“Working for both Wisegroup and the Energy Savings Trust also made me extremely aware of the important role that the business community can play in improving both our society and our environment.

“Scottish employers are coming under increasing pressure from both staff and customers to pay the real Living Wage- currently at £8.45. And becoming a real Living Wage employer doesn’t just have benefits for the accredited organisation, it can have an important impact on the supply chain as well. Increasingly, we are seeing firms put pressure on their suppliers to improve the wages of third party contract workers, like cleaners and support staff.”

Who was your first Living Wage signing in Fife?

“Fife Council - although I can’t really take full credit for this one as I had just started working for The Poverty Alliance and I was shadowing my colleague! The local authority had been working towards real Living Wage accreditation for a while and it was incredibly satisfying to see them achieve it.

“As one of the largest employers in the area, it was a landmark moment and it demonstrated that the council is leading the way to achieve a Fairer Fife. There is a Fairer Fife action plan, that has set the real Living Wage as a key priority. People tend to spend their disposable income locally – so when the real Living Wage puts more money in pockets of low paid workers, it will benefit the local area. That’s a fantastic way for employers to play their part to create a Fairer Fife.

Over 70% are in the private sector with some really great Third Sector employers too.

Your work as an Accreditation Officer for The Poverty Alliance is focused on persuading Fife employers to pay a real Living Wage. How do you convince them to sign up?

“The link between paying the real Living Wage and what you get from staff in return is well documented. If staff are treated right, employers will reap the benefits of increased productivity, better attendance levels and a strongly motivated workforce. Becoming a Living Wage employer sends a strong message about company values, which in turn makes it easier to recruit – and retain –  top quality staff.

It can also attract ethically responsible consumers and even extends to competitive tendering. As the Council are accredited, the Living Wage is a prominent part of their procurement policy, and points are awarded for the real Living Wage as an element of Fair Work principles.

Achieving accreditation boosts the reputation of a business, which is why lots of employers are proudly displaying their Living Wage ‘badge’ on their websites, on social media – or even in their windows.

There are lots of employers in Fife already doing this – so it makes sense they enjoy public recognition for this and get accredited.”

Does the Living Wage extend to contract workers?

“Accreditation reaches not just directly employed staff, but also captures third party contract workers who are regularly on site – two hours a day over an eight-week period. We don’t need employers to overhaul their business model and where there are relevant suppliers with whom you have long contracts with, we help you reach out to them to negotiate a reasonable date for those staff to get the real Living Wage. A good rule of thumb is – if they are on your site for two hours in any day, then they are most likely in the scope of your accreditation.”

Why is the real Living Wage important for workers?

“In survey after survey, it’s proven that low wages have a detrimental effect on the health and well-being of staff. By paying a Living Wage, firms send out a signal to employees that they are working for an organisation that really values and rewards their contribution.”

Your accredited living wage employers in Fife include Carnegie UK Trust, Fife Voluntary Action and Gibson Training & Care Ltd. How do employers sign up?

“They can get in touch with us at [email protected] or call 0141 353 0440. Businesses will receive information and support from us, and be part of a network with the chance to learn from others, attend and organise events, and support a movement that addresses in-work poverty in Scotland.”

What’s the difference between the real Living Wage, the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage?

“Employers choose to pay the real Living Wage, set by the Living Wage Foundation, on a voluntary basis. The National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage – set by the UK Government - is lower and is the legal minimum an employer can pay an employee.”

Is it true that real Living Wage accreditation involves a lot of paperwork?

“Businesses shouldn’t fear the paperwork. In fact, it’s a straightforward online licence that is easy to do and doesn’t require paperwork to attach to it. The online licence takes around 10 minutes to fill in if you've done all your checking. And remember, for your suppliers it only applies to those contracted staff on your premises two hours a day over an eight-week period.

“Then once you are accredited and when the new rate is announced in the first week of November, employers have six months to bring in the new rate – though we hope that happens sooner rather than later.”

About the real Living Wage

  • The real Living Wage in Scotland is £8.45 an hour for all workers over 18.
  • The yearly cost of being accredited is low, starting at £60 for 0-10 employees.
  • Paying the real Living Wage can count towards scoring for tenders with local government and the Scottish Government.
  • The advantages of accreditation are many: accredited employers say they've seen reputational benefits; enhanced productivity; greater staff retention; and more effective recruitment.
  • Research from accounting giant KPMG revealed that seven out of 10 UK adults would consciously shop in favour of a Living Wage accredited retail chain.
  • The UK Government’s National Minimum Wage applies to workers aged 24 and under. It’s £5.60 per hour for 18-20 year olds, rising to £7.05 per hour for 21-24 year olds. The UK Government’s National Living Wage of £7.50 applies to workers aged 25 and over.