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Why we pay the real living wage

15th Nov 2023

What is the living wage?

The UK Living Wage is the only UK wage which is based on the actual cost of living. The rates are independently calculated by the Resolution Foundation and overseen by the Living Wage Commision. They take a basket of food and service that a household will need per week and find the real cost of this and the rate that staff need to be able meet the cost of living.

Why we decided to accredit with the Living Wage Foundation

When we made the decision to start employing staff, we knew it was important to us for staff to be happy and treated fairly. Both my husband, and I have had various jobs, myself with various publishing companies, and him in more practical trade and retail industries. We had many tales, both good and bad of employers and we wanted to take the good and use it in our company.

We have always paid over minimum wage and offered over more than average holidays along with other benefits. Just after the announcement of the new rates for the 2023 real living wage, I read an article in the CIPP about the new rates. I was more than aware of the cost of living rising for myself as a business and personally as a family. We had staff asking for advances and loans, and we knew it was affecting them as well.

We didn’t want our staff to struggle with being able to pay for essential food and services. We also wanted them to know we had that commitment to them. It was in December 2022 we began to investigate the accreditation process for the real living wage.

The Accreditation Process

At this point in our business, I didn’t have support from a senior team that I do now. I was doing all the administration, payroll, sales, marketing, and general admin for a staff team of over 30. It was important to me that accreditation was a simple process. I went online and scrolled though the questions for accreditation. After going away and checking all staff and subcontractors were being paid above that rate, I went back and completed the form. It took around 30 minutes, and we were done.  I had a few issues with our online account but the people on the other end of the phone were more than helpful and helped us do everything that we needed to do so that process was simple. I'm glad it was because I do think it would have been a stumbling block if it hadn't been. The reaction from staff has only been positive.

Impact on staff

Our staff are the life blood of our organisation. Retention can be hard in our industry and staff often move from company to company. In 2011 research showed that pay was the one of the top reasons for staff staying in a job, along with recognition and reward. The fact that we guarantee our staff the living wage and are accredited shows our commitment to them. In a recent staff survey we have found that all staff are happy with the hourly pay rate they receive. We also find that two thirds of potential staff will always mention the fact that we are a real living wage employer; not only does it help us retain staff bit also attract them to us above other companies.

What it means for our business

More recently the living wage has become a talking point with our clients. We have sent out notifications detailing our April 2024 hourly rate rise. We have since had some interesting discussions with a few clients, which has really helped increase their knowledge about why we do what we do. Several clients have come back to us questioning what they believe is quite a steep price increase when in fact it is less than the cost-of-living increase over 12 months and living wage rise! We have explained that we are not going to compromise on what we pay our staff, so if they want to go with another company that pays their staff less and can charge you less than that is their decision.  Every client has appreciated our honestly and dedication to the real living wage. Some companies won’t choose us to be their provider because there are other commercial cleaning providers who pay the minimum wage and can therefore charge less for their services. I don’t see this as a disadvantage – we stand alongside our employees and maintain that they deserve to work for a wage that they can live off. If a company does not agree with this stance, then that is not someone we want to partner with. We are proud of being a living wage employer and are glad our accreditation shows our commitment to that.