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The reasons why eight SME leaders chose to implement – or encourage – the Living Wage

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Aviva’s approach to the Living Wage has been one of gradual implementation, with the company first having adopting the London Living Wage and then the UK NLW in order to recognise its social responsibility to stakeholders and – most likely – to manage the brand risks which emerged around living wage issues.

When campaigns aimed at the FTSE 100 by TELCO and the Greater London Authority began in 2003, the company embraced the Living Wage. Joanne Goddard, head of CR governance and engagement at Aviva explained: “We signed up without much hesitation. The upside was hugely beneficial to the employees affected and the impact on costs was minimal. It was also the right thing to do.”

Similarly, Barclays’ initial engagement with the Living Wage movement began after a meeting with TELCO. Taking account of concerns raised by the campaign, Barclays made a commitment to increase its rate of pay and improve the working conditions in its Canary Wharf office.

Dominic Johnson, employee relations director, suggested: “Having supported the Living Wage for over ten years, we know that it can improve productivity, morale and retention rates. This is not just an expression of our corporate values or an issue of social impact, but good business sense”.

These are just two examples of the many reasons that led firms to hop onboard the Living Wage bandwagon. Take KPMG, which, according to Guy Stallard, head of facilities, thought of the Living Wage as a “change management programme which helped firms consider how to redefine service level in terms of values, not just what people get paid”.

How can SMEs offset the cost of the National Living Wage?

And when it came to Penrose Care, co-founder Robert Stephenson-Padron suggested that if the business was to deliver its service as a care provider, then this obligation should be extended to employees.

But what about smaller firms? We spoke to the leaders of SMEs to gauge their take on the Living Wage, as well as why they chose to implement it.

1) Jonathan Whittaker, senior partner at law firm SAS Daniels

According to Whittaker, SAS Daniels had started to pay the Living Wage long before the government introduced it. And, while he stressed that some companies pay it to boost CSR credentials and get accredited by the Living Wage Foundation, the company’s core reason was because it believed in paying a fair wage for a day’s work.

“It hasn’t been difficult to manage but we have done it very carefully and we had to decide where to draw the line and for us that was to pay the going rate commercially,” he said.

Whittaker added: “The main benefit for us is that for roles in our company that are at the lower end of the pay spectrum, we tend to find that we can choose from a better pool of candidates as our rates of pay tend to be better than equivalent roles in other organisations.”

Read on for the firm seeking to decrease stress and the HR director’s take on how the Living Wage will give you a competitive edge.

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