Real Living Wage Inspirational Speakers Event

At Advice NI’s last Inspirational Speakers Event, we had a presentation from the Real Living Wage Foundation. The Real Living Wage (RLW) is a rate of pay based on the cost of living and provides an income that meets the everyday needs of employees.

The RLW movement began 20 years ago when members of The East London Communities Organisation decided they were fed up working multiple minimum wage jobs that still didn’t make ends meet. They began to campaign for employers in east London to pay a living wage. Since then, the RLW movement has grown. The number of accredited RLW employers today sits at 10,000, and the movement has put almost £1.7bn back into the pockets of low-paid workers and lifted over 300,000 workers onto the RLW.

The RLW is calculated every year based on the real cost of living i.e. the amount of money people need for a decent standard of living and to participate fully in society. The calculation is overseen by the Living Wage Commission and is based on the best available evidence about living standards. The RLW is available to all workers over 18, and this year the rate is £9.90 per hour.

Other rates of pay exist apart from the RLW. For example, the National Minimum Wage, at £8.36 per hour, is based on recommendations from businesses and trade unions rather than being linked to the cost of living and is available to workers 22 years and over. The National Living Wage is calculated as a percentage of median earnings and applies to workers 23 year and over, and currently sits at £8.91.

The RLW is a means by which we can address the chronic problem of low pay in today’s economy. For instance, 1 in 6 employees earn below the RLW, and 2 in 3 children in poverty have a parent in work. Workers in part-time roles as well as key workers are disproportionally impacted by low pay and 1 million children in key worker families are living in poverty. Over a third of parents working full time but earning below the RLW have been forced to skip meals due to financial constraints. The RLW benefits employees because puts more money in their pockets, allowing them to earn enough to have a decent standard of living.

However, the RLW doesn’t just benefit workers. It also benefits employers. The RLW Foundation surveyed RLW employers who said that paying the RLW improved recruitment, retention, motivation and quality of work. RLW employers also noticed other improvements such as fewer employee complaints, reduction in staff turnover, improved quality of service for customers, and increased employee morale and loyalty to the employer.

It’s difficult to believe that anybody should have to work for a wage that doesn’t actually allow them to buy the essentials and pay their bills, but that is exactly what we have come to expect our modern economy. The RLW is practical and achievable a way to help reverse that trend.