Blog: The Real Living Wage is Especially Important When Times are Tough     

25 January 2024

By Lynn Anderson, Manager, Living Wage Scotland

The Living Wage Scotland team are in for a busy 2024. A key priority for this year is to continue to celebrate employers across Scotland for their commitment to the real Living Wage and Living Hours. These measures make a tangible difference to people’s lives, as decent pay and secure work are the bedrock of ensuring our labour market works better for everyone.  

Living Wage accreditation in Scotland has meant a pay rise to the real Living Wage for more than 64000 workers, delivering over £465million of extra wages to the pockets of low paid workers.  

Living Wage employers are helping create a more just labour market, where workers can meet their everyday needs. However, too many workers in Scotland remain in the grip of poverty, with low pay forcing them to access food banks in order to afford to heat their homes.  

We live in a society that believes in compassion and justice, so it’s not right that low paid workers are unable to meet their everyday needs. With the cost of living continuing to pressure the lowest income households most, it’s more important than ever that employers confirm, or reaffirm their commitment to paying a rate based on living costs. The real Living Wage increased to £12 per hour in October 2023, and Peter Kelly, Poverty Alliance Director reflecting on the rate increase said:  

“£12 represents more than just a number. It’s carefully and independently calculated to ensure that it covers the essentials of people’s lives. In the middle of a costs crisis, that is more important now than ever. For many workers, it could represent the difference between getting by, or going under.” 

Recent years have been particularly challenging for businesses impacted by Brexit, Covid 19, and the cost of living crisis. Many employers in our network have shared with us that they are experiencing a ‘cost of doing-business crisis’ in a challenging operating environment. Despite these challenges, support for the Living Wage employer movement has continued to grow. There are now more than 3400 accredited Living Wage employers in Scotland, accounting for around 1/4 of the UK total of 14000, and retention of accredited employers remains strong. Support for the Living Hours standard is gaining ground too, with now more than 100 employers across the UK leading the charge in committing to security of contracts and hours alongside their Living Wage commitment. 33% of Living Hours employers in the UK, are based in Scotland.  

Living Wage employers in Scotland operate across all sectors, with most (60%) from the Private sector, 30% from the Third sector and 10% in the Public sector.   While public sector Living Wage employers are typically large institutions, Living Wage employers across the Private and Third sector are mainly SMEs. Indeed, around 75% of accredited Living Wage employers in Scotland employ less than 50 staff.  

We know that smaller organisations can face different challenges in keeping pace with rising operating costs and are sometimes less able to absorb higher labour costs. It is therefore heartening to see employers continue to support their workforce with the security of the real Living Wage. Our network tells us that they make the choice to pay the real Living Wage for a range of reasons: because it’s the right thing to do, because it strengthens their reputation and competitive edge, and because it helps attract, retain and motivate staff.  

Employers that are committed in the longer term to the real Living Wage recognise that their workers need a real Living Wage now more than ever. The spirit of the Living Wage commitment is about making these choices in the tough times as well as the easier times, and in turn, engaging the full workforce on building an organisations resilience.  

For information, and friendly support from our Living Wage Scotland team on any aspect of accreditation, please get in touch. We are here to help.  

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