International Women’s Day – How we can Inspire Inclusion through the real Living Wage

08 March 2024

This International Women’s Day, Living Wage Scotland is on a mission to highlight the critical role of the real Living Wage in driving inclusion and addressing gender inequality. The real Living Wage is a transformative tool for women in the workplace – and can often mean the difference between surviving and thriving. 

Nearly 60% of workers earning less than the Living Wage are women. 

Women are more likely than men to have caring responsibilities and therefore must find work that allows them to balance earning with caring. This often means working part-time, and the available part-time work is often low paid, with little opportunity for career progression. 

Part-time jobs are more than three times as likely to pay below the Living Wage than full-time roles. 

Womens’ working patterns are often linked to their experience of poverty. In Scotland, women are more likely than men to experience in-work poverty, find it harder to escape poverty, and are more likely to experience persistent poverty. Black and minority ethnic women and disabled women are more likely to experience in-work poverty than their white and non-disabled counterparts.  

The gender pay gap represents a lifetime of inequality for women 

Pay gap strategies often focus on getting more women into senior roles. While important, this can sideline the fact that the gender pay gap is often caused by women’s concentration in low-paid, insecure and undervalued work such as cleaning, care work, retail, and hospitality. 

Women also make up the vast majority of sole parents, who may be juggling several low-paid part-time jobs simultaneously to make ends meet.  

Almost half of single-parent households are living in poverty. 

The Living Wage enables fair work for women 

When women are paid a Living Wage, and can access flexible working arrangements, they gain opportunities for financial independence, which can lift whole families out of systemic poverty. This is particularly important in female-dominated industries such as social care, cleaning and retail.  

Employees who are paid appropriately also feel valued and are consequently more motivated and loyal to their employer. 

Good for workers, good for business, good for society 

The real Living Wage is a critical solution for supporting women in the workforce. Fair pay makes a dramatic difference to employees’ quality of life, and there are also positive business impacts on staff morale, reduced turnover, and improved company reputation. 

Fair pay also has a host of societal benefits including reducing reliance on social welfare programs and increasing economic activity. 

Sarah Aoki, Managing Director, Perfect Cleaning Solutions 

Perfect Cleaning Solutions illustrates the transformative effects of the Living Wage on women, businesses, and society. Owner Sarah Aoki is committed to paying all her staff the living wage, which is especially powerful in industries like cleaning, where low pay and precarious employment conditions are prevalent.  

Cleaning is an industry affected by a lot of staff churn, but Sarah has seen the importance of the Living Wage in retaining good employees and keeping up morale. She has seen first-hand that fair pay leads to happier, more motivated employees with the financial independence to provide for their families. 

“When we pay the Living Wage, we are investing in our community and our future.” 

  • Sarah Aoki, Managing Director, Perfect Cleaning Solutions 

Angela Magee, Service Manager at Visiting Angelz 

Visiting Angelz employs a considerable number of women, reflecting the gender distribution commonly seen in the social care sector. Angela’s commitment to fair employment practices underlines her belief in gender parity and working towards building inclusive and equitable workplaces. 

Angela’s lightbulb moment came when she realised the impact of employment status on her staff’s ability to secure a mortgage. This led to a shift towards offering more stable contracts and eventually gaining Living Wage accreditation in 2019. The decision to pay the Living Wage has had a profound impact on Visiting Angelz employees, and Angela has seen increased commitment from staff and better care for service users. 

“When you pay the Living Wage you help support the individual and their whole family.” 

  • Angela Magee, Service Manager, Visiting Angelz 

Nicole Rudder, Managing Director at G4 Claims Ltd 

G4 Claims is an accident management company with 80% female staff. They support the Living Wage initiative, emphasising the importance of fair compensation for their employees, especially given the rising cost of living.  

Nicole has seen first-hand the critical role of the Living Wage in compensating women fairly for their work and encouraging a healthier work-life balance. The Living Wage is also important for women in the workplace to help counter the perception that men are taken more seriously in business. 

“We pay the real Living Wage to make sure everyone is getting paid what they deserve.” 

  • Nicole Rudder, Managing Director, G4 Claims Ltd 

Gender equality belongs to everyone, everywhere  

There are now more than 3,400 accredited Living Wage employers in Scotland operating across all sectors – and the vast majority of these are small and medium sized businesses. 

75% of accredited Living Wage employers in Scotland employ less than 50 staff.   

Nicole from G4 Claims chose to become accredited to actively promote the Living Wage. She uses accreditation as a badge of pride on company emails and websites to signal their commitment to fair pay. She believes that the Living Wage accreditation helps attract employees who share the company’s values and standards.  

94% of employers report that they have benefited from Living Wage accreditation. 

By keeping existing staff happy, employers make savings on retention, recruitment, and training new staff. Accredited companies also report high morale and motivation resulting in increased productivity. 

You can make a difference 

To truly make an impact, commit to paying all your employees the real Living Wage, especially in sectors such as cleaning, care, and hospitality, where women are disproportionately affected by low wages. Becoming a Living Wage accredited employer is a powerful step toward rectifying gender pay disparities and demonstrating your commitment to fairness and equality in the workplace. 

By ensuring that your staff receive a wage that meets their living needs, you not only uplift the lives of individual women but also set a standard for ethical business practices in your industry. 

Why not discuss the importance of the real Living Wage within your network and encourage other businesses to follow suit. The more companies embrace fair pay and seek Living Wage accreditation, the more we move toward a society where gender equality is not just an ideal, but a reality. 

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