The real Living Wage and social enterprise

Posted: 15 November 2021, in News

This is Living Wage Week, the annual celebration of the real Living Wage and the employers who have committed to ensuring their staff are paid a wage which meets their cost of living. 

In Scotland there are now more than 2400 accredited Living Wage employers who have collectively uplifted more than 52,000 workers to the real Living Wage and put £310 million extra in wages into workers pockets.

We know from the last Social Enterprise Census in 2019 that 75% of social enterprises pay their staff the real Living Wage and I am look forward to seeing the updated figure on this when the new census data is released. This is a fantastic figure and something that the industry should be very proud of, but it is not a figure we see reflected in the numbers of social enterprises choosing to gain Living Wage accreditation – we would love to change that.

While you may see Living Wage accreditation as another badge, and we know there are a lot of them out there, this is about your organisation being able to show your staff, clients, and the public that you want to do all that you can to support your staff and are playing your part in tackling the wider issue of in-work poverty in Scotland.

As innovative and independent businesses with specific social and environmental missions we know that the work social enterprises do often looks to tackle poverty or an aspect of it as part of their mission. However, for those among you who are not yet paying the real Living Wage, we would urge you to consider if this is possible for you to do now or begin to plan towards. 

Some organisations who are now accredited with us had to work towards being able to pay the real Living Wage and gain accreditation over several years. While this process took work and time, they have spoken of how rewarding it was to gain formal accreditation.

For those of you still thinking about implementing the real Living Wage as part of your wage structure, there are many benefits we hear about paying the real Living Wage: 

  • Improved retention rates of staff and therefore reduced costs from recruitment and training. 
  • Increased number of applications for jobs, as well as an improvement in the quality of applications. 
  • Employees reported feeling more valued and appreciated, leading them to feel proud to work for their employer. 

Those who are already paying the real Living Wage but are perhaps suffering a bit of badge fatigue, we also repeatedly hear the benefits of gaining accreditation – differentiating from competitors, signals a long term commitment to staff. Being a proud Living Wage accredited employer is one of the clearest messages you can send about your organisation’s values. 

An accredited social enterprise told us: 

We are proud to be part of the real Living Wage movement as an example of how even small organisations like us, can help support and deliver real change to people’s lives”.          

We truly believe that Living Wage accreditation fits with the ethos and goals of value driven social enterprises. Values such as empowerment, inclusivity and sustainability will be important as we look to re-build a fairer economy. 

We believe there is a fantastic opportunity for social enterprises from across Scotland to play their part in creating a more just and compassionate society where workers and their families don’t just survive, but can thrive. 

Rachel Morrison-McCormick, Living Wage Accreditation Officer, Living Wage Scotland