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In Living Wage Week, Margaret Quinn reflects on why being an accredited Real Living Wage Employer is important to Social.

The Living Wage Foundation announced its new rates this week (15th November 2021), of £9.90 an hour outside of London and £11.05 within the capital.  The rates are independently calculated based on what people need to live on and distinct from the statutory minimum wage levels set by government.  Paying the Real Living Wage is a voluntary commitment by employers – with over 9,000 companies and organisations currently accredited by the Living Wage Foundation.

Impact of low pay

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis announced the new rates on Monday, highlighting some shocking statistics as he did so.   Around 400,000 people in the UK consider taking their own lives every year because of financial issues – and 100,000 attempted to do so.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 14.5 million people in the UK were living in poverty before the COVID-19 pandemic hit – including 13 per cent of workers.

Why we made the pledge

As a business, we are committed to doing the right thing by our colleagues, clients, suppliers, society and the planet.  We became an accredited Living Wage Employer in 2019, locking in our longstanding practice of paying above the Living Wage to all our team, including interns.  Our Real Living Wage pledge was part of a wider set of commitments formalising our continued determination to run our business in the right way and make a positive impact for our colleagues and for society more widely.

PR is not a low paid sector – but competition for entry level positions, often in big cities with high living costs – has meant young people often need family support to get a foot in the door.  And that feeds into the sector’s wider problem of a chronic lack of diversity.  We cannot operate as effective communications practitioners when we don’t reflect the audiences and communities that we need to connect with.

Making a difference

So paying the Living Wage to all our colleagues, and being an advocate for it within our industry, is part of our journey to becoming a more inclusive and diverse employer.  Moreover, a significant proportion of our work is for public bodies and, increasingly, being an accredited Living Wage Employer is a requirement to win that work.  We know from conversations with our own team that treating employees fairly is an important factor influencing where they choose to work and how they spend their money as well.

It means we can open doors that might otherwise be closed, and help people build careers in an exciting and rewarding sector.  So pledging to pay the Real Living Wage is about so much more than 40p an hour extra.  And we are proud to do our bit to support this movement and to help improve lives.