November
11
Author
Andy McWilliam
Living Wage Week 2019

As I write to mark Living Wage Week 2019, I am pleased to say that Jubilee+ is entering its fifth year of accreditation as a Living Wage Employer. We happily continue to stand with, and support the work of the Living Wage Foundation. So far nearly 6000 employers, including some very well-known names, have gained accreditation.

Over the last few years the Government’s National Living Wage policy has become established. Its name has probably caused confusion in some minds with the work of the Living Wage Foundation. They are two separate and somewhat different schemes.

The Living Wage Foundation scheme is voluntary; applies to all workers over 18; has a higher rate for London; and crucially bases its rate calculation on the actual cost of living. The rates just announced for the next 12 months are: London £10.75/hr; elsewhere £9.30/hr.

By contrast, the Government National Living Wage is statutory; has one rate for ages 21-24, and another for over 25s; applies the same rates throughout the nation; and bases its rate calculation on the concept of relative poverty. The current rate for over 25s is £8.21.

The stated aim of the Government policy is to set the rate at 60% of median earnings. (Currently the rate is at 55% of median.) By definition, 50% of all workers are paid less than the median rate, and 50% are paid above it. This is a policy therefore which prevents the lowest paid falling too far behind other workers, but there is no link to the actual cost of living. It is a necessary first step, and as a result of the policy many are being paid more than they would have been, but we would argue it does not go far enough. The markedly higher rates from the Living Wage Foundation, based on a cost of living calculation, strongly imply that the Government rate is insufficient to sustain even basic provision. The rising number of in-work foodbank users tends to lead to the same conclusion.

The existence of a statutory ‘National Living Wage’ means that for many employers that will be their ‘go to’ rate for their lowest paid workers. The policy name may well lead them to believe that they are thereby paying those workers at a rate they can genuinely live on. We don’t believe that is true, and we would urge employers to ‘go the extra mile’ and adopt the Living Wage Foundation rate as your minimum. Your people are worth it and deserve it.

This discussion is inevitably framed in terms of hourly rates. But an hourly rate has to be combined with working a full week, over a period of months if not years, to generate an income that is large enough and reliable enough to enable people to live sustainably. The rise of the ‘gig economy’ is therefore of significant concern. Hence it’s good to see that the Living Wage Foundation is now developing a ‘Living Hours’ initiative aimed at increasing the security of work.

The Bible has much to say on work as the primary means by which we are meant to support ourselves (and our dependents). As Jesus says in Luke 10:7 ‘a worker deserves their wages’. To use a person’s time, energy and skills, and then to pay them less than they can live on, is surely unjust. Even the most unskilled work should enable the worker to sustain a dignified way of life. For an increasing number in our nation, work is failing to achieve that. The Living Wage Foundation is working hard to address that situation. Why not support them in that?


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Our annual Churches that Change Communities conference is taking place this Saturday, 16 November. Come along to hear from more than a dozen other charities about how they are finding practical ways to work towards social justice in their communities. Book in online before midnight on Wednesday to secure your place.