By Colin Smith, Development Manager, North Lanarkshire Carers Together
Living Hours is a new initiative that was developed by the Living Wage Foundation and was launched in 2019. The Living Wage movement has delivered a pay rise to over 52,000 people in Scotland and put over £310 million extra into the pockets of low paid Scottish workers. The Living Hours standard was created to ensure that people have predictable working patterns and income, enabling them to better plan their lives. Living Hours accreditation requires employers to pay the real Living Wage (now £9.90/hr) and commit to provide at least four weeks’ notice for every shift, with guaranteed payment if shifts are cancelled within this notice period. Living Hours employers also provide a guaranteed minimum of 16 working hours every week (unless the worker requests otherwise), and a contract that accurately reflects hours worked.
At North Lanarkshire Carers Together, we have long been an accredited employer and supporter of a real Living Wage. We provide a campaigning, representation and information service to unpaid carers. We choose to become a Living Wage accredited employer in October 2018. All our staff earn above the real Living Wage and enjoy a benefits package commensurate with their worth and our values as an ethical, supportive employer.
While it is admirable to provide at least the real Living Wage to staff and regular contracted workers, as many as 53% of shift workers get less than a weeks’ notice of their working hours. The same research from the Living Wage Foundation in 2021 concluded that 11% of workers in Scotland are in insecure work and paid below the real Living Wage, that’s approximately 300,000 workers. This is wrong and makes it impossible to plan household budgets and meaningfully enjoy a standard of living at a time when a cost-of-living crisis looms heavy for many.
All our staff receive a full-time contract with set hours and days, yet many of the carers we provide a service to, juggle work and caring and often fall into this category of insecure hours of work. Therefore, when we heard about Living Hours Accreditation to raise awareness of and advocate for real Living Hours alongside a real Living Wage, it was an easy decision for us to pursue and promote its value. We already fit the criteria for Living Hours accreditation and became officially accredited in January 2021.
We are one of the first employers to implement this new standard and become an accredited Living Hours employer. We join Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home, Dear Green Coffee Roasters, SSE, abrdn and 1st Alliance Credit Union as accredited Living Hours employers in Scotland. This commitment applies to not only directly employed staff but also to any future third party contracted staff we are required to use.
As a provider of services to the North Lanarkshire based estimated 1.1 million carers in Scotland, the vast majority of whom are not eligible for Carers Allowance (£67.60pw); we are acutely aware of the disproportionate financial impact levied upon those providing care and will do all we can to campaign for a fairer deal to reflect the savings they provide to the Scottish Health & Social Care budget. Our commitment to the real Living Wage and Living Hours and promoting both to employers is one way in which we can do this. North Lanarkshire Carers Together would urge any ethical employer to review their carer-friendly policies and consider accreditation for all staff and contractors to build a better, fairer society.