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

5) Michelle Wright, founder and CEO of Cause4

Wright is of the belief that since implementing the Living Wage, the way the company recruits has changed.

“Moving towards the full Living Wage as a basis to pay our staff has been an important development for Cause4,” she claimed. “We have grown our business based on developing graduates through our Entrepreneurship development programmes looking to support the growth of future leaders for the charity and social enterprise sectors.”

Embracing the Living Wage, Wright said, has hence made it easier for graduates on the scheme as finance would no longer be deemed a primary concern.

“We currently employ over 30 graduates and the move to Living Wage status has made a huge difference to how we approach recruitment and how valued our staff feel,” she claimed. “It also helps us attract a broader, more diverse, field of candidates from all backgrounds. Employed staff should be able to live comfortably and this approach makes a key difference to our ability to attract the best talent from the widest range of backgrounds.”

Charlie Mullins: If you can’t take the National Living Wage heat, get out of the business

6) C-J Green, group HR Director at Servest

Green suggested that while it may be the right thing to do, she realised there were a few challenges that kept some employers at bay.

“I am a huge supporter of the Living Wage; people should earn appropriate pay rates that not only make them feel valued, but also help them to live a high quality life,” Green said. “As employers, it’s our obligation to ensure that this is the case. However, there are of course associated challenges with a broad wage increase. There is a risk that uplifting entry-level workers’ wages will close the gap between tier one and tier two staff; for example, if the increases aren’t adopted company-wide, operatives may earn a similar rate of pay to their supervisors.

“The key challenge is avoiding the situation where you’re inadvertently devaluing the more senior members of the team who earn slightly above the minimum wage. Employers need to be cautious of the next level; specifically, the ‘knock on effect’ the Living Wage may have across the board. The NLW campaign doesn’t just affect those on minimum wage after all; it should, therefore, be thought of as a whole picture.”

7) Paraic Begley, general manager and COO at Sugru

Begley, however, claimed that while the benefits being offered to companies is paramount, the key reason for embracing the Living Wage, in Sugru’s case, is to boost employee work-life balance.

“At Sugru, we passionately believe that all our employees deserve to make the most of their lives and have the opportunity to experience important things such as family life and pursuing hobbies and interests,” Begley said.

He added: “We strongly believe in fairness and we are delighted to see more businesses adopt this too.”

8) James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog

“BrewDog is an eclectic collective of passionate people committed to great craft beer,” Watt said. “All of them, from our talented brewers to our awesome bar staff, are integral to our success and growth so we wanted to reward their passion and dedication by guaranteeing a fair wage for all. All of our staff will receive a wage that will afford them a good standard of living wherever they might be located.”

This, he claimed, should be a wakeup call for employers, especially in the hospitality industry. 

“What should be a respected profession is often still regarded as a university stop gap,” claimed Watt. “No other bar division has ever looked beyond legal minimum wage or legislative parameters in committing to salary levels for staff. But we want this to provide a call to arms for the industry to pick up its feet and set new standards.”

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