The first week of November is Living Wage Week, a UK-wide celebration of the Living Wage and the employers that are committed to it. It’s also an opportunity to raise awareness; it’s a subject that’s featured prominently in the papers over the last few months, but only 1,700 business out of the UK’s 4.9 million have already implemented it.
The Living Wage Foundation, established in 2005, already promotes a recommended, but not legally enforceable, minimum level of pay, which is calculated by academics as the level of pay to afford workers a basic standard of living.
We gained accreditation to the Living Wage Foundation earlier this month, which means that everyone working at Reward Gateway – regardless of whether they are permanent employees or third-party contractors and suppliers – receives a minimum hourly wage of £8.25, higher than the current national minimum wage of £6.50.
So, for those of you that are unsure, and in the spirit of Living Wage Week, I wanted to share our experiences of the process and what we learnt from it.
The first point I want to make is that it was surprisingly simple – I’d imagined there would be a lengthy process of discussions and agreements, but it just isn’t the case.
The first step is to carry out a data analysis test, to establish exactly who is and isn’t being paid the Living Wage in your company, which includes contracted staff, such as cleaners, catering and security as well as all full time employees.
Creating your action plan
This is then used to create an action plan, which outlines how and when you will bring each member of staff up to the Living Wage. We were fortunate in that, as it was only our contracted staff that weren’t receiving the Living Wage, our plan was evident – we needed to speak to the suppliers and liaise with them to implement it.
We thought that this might have been more complicated than it ended up being, being sure that there would be some hoops to jump through, but because we the employer felt strongly about this, we didn’t run into any difficulty.
It’s important to note that in some cases contractors won’t be able to implement the increased rate there and then, but as long as they provide a commitment that they will do so when contracts are renewed, and you can supply evidence proving this, you can still be accredited.
Overall, it took no more than a couple of weeks, and this was spread out across a few working hours each day to liaise with the right people.
The importance of leadership buy-in
As with any business decision, being able to count on the support of the leadership results in less stress and increased efficiency. However, many leaders have concerns about the financial implications (especially those in the third sector), which are much more immediate than the benefits.
Before raising the issue with the leadership team, make sure you have a well prepared case about how it will positively impact your staff, and in turn the business. Despite the financial cost, some leaders are starting to realise that its benefits – increased productivity, increased staff retention, increased innovation – far outweigh the disadvantages.
Luckily, our Founder & CEO Glenn Elliott was behind the issue from the beginning – in fact, it was him that first raised the issue. At Reward Gateway, we hold a Global Business Update every six months, where we gather all employees across our seven global offices at the same time and share the latest news on the business, and it was here that Glenn announced the decision to become accredited, and here that the process started for us.
What about communication?
How you communicate the change to your staff is an important aspect to consider. Any announcement regarding payroll is sensitive, especially with something like the Living Wage, where the pros and cons of it are constantly being reported on in the press.
For us, it made sense to do it this way – we’re very open in the way that we communicate with our employees and they expect to hear about any key changes at the Update. It also meant that everyone knew at the same time, which avoided confusion and misinformation.
For any business thinking of becoming accredited, the process itself is by no means a barrier to completion. The internal feedback has been very positive, and has reinforced our existing culture of recognition.