Blog: Making Edinburgh a Living Wage City by Cllr Jane Meagher, Edinburgh Living Wage City Action Group

“It wasn’t just about the moral issue.  It was also about us looking at our staff performance and our ability to retain and attract the right people. We’ve seen real improvements in our sickness absence in relation to stress.”  

Lindsey Fyffe-Jardine, Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home (Action Group member) 

As part of Living Wage Week this year, we are celebrating the commitment Edinburgh has made to becoming a Living Wage City – a city in which people can access fair work that provides dignity and security. 

This time last year we saw the launch of the Edinburgh Living Wage City Action Group – a collaboration of local employers, public sector bodies, trade unions, social enterprises, and business organisations, all committed to the promotion of fair work in Scotland’s capital city. 

At its inception the Group set an ambitious plan to more than double the number of real Living Wage accredited businesses in Edinburgh, with a target of at least 100 new accreditations each year. 

Since its launch, the Group and its members have: 

  • held public engagement and learning events to promote the living wage among local businesses (in person and online) 
  • produced a video highlighting the living wage and group’s ambitions 
  • secured press coverage to raise the profile of the movement in Edinburgh, and celebrate successes on new significant accreditations 
  • supported Living Wage Scotland through production of case studies, blogs, and other promotional activities 
  • established plans for focused campaign work in key sectors of the Edinburgh economy where Living Wage take up is relatively low – such as retail, hospitality, construction and care 
  • encouraged major anchor institutions in Edinburgh to become Living Wage accredited, including Community Planning Partners and Council Arm’s Length Companies – all of which are now either fully accredited, or in discussion with Living Wage Scotland on accreditation 

The impact of this work so far has been very encouraging.  Since the formal launch of the group, a total of 120 Living Wage accredited employers in the city have joined including Innis and Gunn, Glenmorangie Co., Virgin Hotels, George Watson’s College and Age Scotland – exceeding the target for this first year.   

These businesses employ more than 36,000 workers, including over 1,400 staff who have received wage uplifts as a direct result of the accreditation process.  

The Group are committed to helping Edinburgh become a city where work can offer people a secure income that is enough to live on.   Living Wage accreditation is a critical part of this plan, but the work of the Group includes other aspects of fair work beyond pay levels alone.  In particular: 

  • The group’s membership includes two early adopters of the Living Hours movement in Scotland – abrdn and Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home – both of which have been active local champions of this programme, as well as supporting national campaign work led by Living Wage Scotland  
  • Through partnership with leading academics Dr Ishbel McWha-Herman of University of Edinburgh Business School, and Prof. Rosalind Searle of the Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow, and the European Association of Work and Psychology (EAWOP), the group has supported academic research and learning on Living Wages and connections between job quality, employee identity, organisational commitment, fairness, and trust. 
  • Mary Alexander, member of the Action Group, is the representative of Scotland’s Fair Work Convention, which this year has been active in engaging discussions on fair work within key sectors for Edinburgh such as construction. 
  • Other Group members, such as Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, have promoted socially responsible business in the city through awards programmes, training and mentorship, and connected discussions on fair work to activity on implementation of climate strategies in the city through its convening of the Edinburgh Just Economic Transition Forum. 

Taken together, 2022 has been a promising first step for the movement towards making Edinburgh a Living Wage City.  There is much more to do though, and in the coming weeks the Group will be considering its priorities for the next twelve months and forming the actions we need to take to maintain the progress made so far, and we will continue to support local businesses who are committed to paying a real Living Wage. 

“Living Hours goes beyond base pay to give workers security of hours and working patterns. This is so important to give people financial security, as well as the ability to plan and manage their work-life balance.” 

Greg McCracken, abrdn (Action Group member) 

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