Guest contributor: Daniel Howard, Programme Manager at Living Wage Foundation.
(Written 29 May 2020)
During the Covid-19 pandemic the country’s ‘key workers’ - delivery drivers, care workers, supermarket staff - have been tirelessly working on the front line to keep our country safe, looking after our loved ones and getting food to our tables.
Despite the huge contribution these workers make to society, we know that over 1 million key workers are not receiving a real Living Wage. This means over half a million care sector staff, over half of all retail workers, including many supermarket staff, and 60% of cleaners don’t earn the real Living Wage.
The real Living Wage is currently £9.30 per hour across the UK and £10.75 in London. The rate is independently calculated based on the cost of living and is voluntarily paid by over 6,000 UK employers like ITV, Nationwide, Oxfam and Everton Football Club who believe a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. All of these employers pay the real Living Wage, which is higher than the government minimum. A fulltime worker on the Government’s National Living Wage earns over £1000 a year less than they would on the real Living Wage.
It is not right that so many workers who have kept us safe and well during this time are paid a wage that does not meet the cost of living. This means they are faced with a choice between food and heating, between buying a birthday present for their child and travelling to work.
Our message is simple: We need key workers and they need a real Living Wage.
Employers in Greater Manchester are already demonstrating leadership on this issue, with over 250 accredited Living Wage Employers in the area. These range from institutions including the University of Manchester, local authorities such as Salford, Manchester City and Oldham, through to large private sector employers like the Co-operative Bank and hundreds of small and medium enterprises. In November 2019, a group of leading Living Wage Employers in Salford were recognised for their ambitious plans to make Salford a Living Wage City.
These employers recognise that higher pay doesn’t only benefit workers, but also businesses, with lower staff turnover and absenteeism. Research conducted by The Smith Institute also found that Greater Manchester’s economy would benefit from a £53m boost if a quarter of low paid workers were lifted onto the real Living Wage.
As we emerge from this crisis, our economy and society will be altered in ways we never could have foreseen. While some changes will have serious social and economic implications, in many cases the crisis has brought out the best in our communities. The response of many businesses and individuals to support those in need has been inspiring.
We’re all appreciating the fundamental role that low-paid workers play in our daily lives like never before.
As Greater Manchester reopens, we need to make sure the real Living Wage is at the centre of how we rebuild the economy. It is vital that the recession that we are likely to find ourselves in does not mean a race to the bottom. Instead, we should build back in a way that protects the conditions and earnings of our lowest-paid workers. The key workers who have supported us all through this crisis deserve, at the very least, to be paid a wage that meets the cost of living.
Living Wage Foundation
The Living Wage Foundation is a Partner of the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter. They are an organisation which campaign for employers to pay a Living Wage and offer accreditation to employers that pay the Real Living Wage.
The Living Wage Foundation are an organisation at the heart of the independent movement of businesses and people that campaign for the idea that a hard day's work deserves a fair day's pay.