Engaging Employers from the Business Perspective

A movement from the community for the community; that's now turned into a national movement with employers mike_kelly_LW.pngeager to sign-on.  What lessons can we learn here? What can we take away from the UK's Living Wage experience?

Listen as Mike Kelly of London's KPMG talks about engaging business employers in the Living Wage. 


Access the full audio recording here moderated by Tom Cooper, HRPR (presented on May 5, 2015 at Living Wage Leaders Gathering in Ottawa, ON)



1. Overview of Living Wage campaign, UK


The Living Wage campaign in the UK is an initiative started by the community for the community, consisting of local faith groups, schools, trade unions, think tanks and more.  After creating 'Listening Campaigns' that surveys residents, they found many people are working 2-3 jobs and still aren't earning enough money and are now not able to spend time with their families.

Successes have really been in defining a 'living wage' and the successes continually built off of the momentum the campaign is picking up

With the built momentum and the flood of businesses wanting to be Living Wage employers, there must be regulations and a process to ensure consistency.



2. Creating employer buy-in


Employers are reaching out KPMG wanting to be a living wage employer.  Employers haven't been shamed or badgered into paying a living wage- they've framed the campaign as something employers aspire to do and actions to be proud of.  In Mike's experience, the best case for paying a living wage are personal stories from people who the living wage has made a difference for.



3.  Political engagement with the Living Wage


The UK Living Wage has nearly all election candidates on board, making commitments to the Living Wage.  The group has found best success in respectfully advising government officials on their questions about the living wage rather than surprising them during their speeches.  Also ask for smaller, tangible commitments that don't need higher approval on, and ensure a reporting process for accountability. 



4.  Public engagement with the Living Wage


 KPMG, as an anchor and convening power, is able to do real market research to understand what the public understands about the living wage.  Through surveys, they've found 80% of people have now heard of the living wage, an are increasingly willing to pay extra for products/services that pay workers a living wage.

5. - Calculating a national living wage rate


A common problem for potential employers in Canada, is that each region has a different living wage rate for them to consider paying their employees.  Great Britain has two: London's living wage reflects the higher cost of living in the city, and a national rate that covers all other regions.  The rates even out when you look across the regions, and the simplicity helps in negotiating with employers



6. - Accountability as a living wage employer


There are often debates around who a living wage extends to for an employer to be considered as a 'living wage employer'.  The UK's campaign demands that the wage is paid to all employees (full-time, part-time, contract), and ensures employees coming from contracted companies are paid a living wage too.

To ensure employers keep their promises, a 'whistleblower' hotline has been set up and employees encouraged to report if their living wage certified employer is not living up to their commitments.  All employers are given a chance to correct their mistake.

7. - Legislated wage v. voluntary wage debate


The legislated minimum wage and living wage are two different concepts.  While the former guarantees someone is not living in abject poverty, the latter gives people a basic but descent lifestyle that allows them to participate in their community.  The minimum wage is legislated at a rate that national leaders determine won't damage the economy and employment prospects.  The other compliments the minimum wage by allowing employers to go above and beyond, and encourages employer competition.


8. - Financial structure of the campaign


Activities on this level require sustainable funding.  Accreditation licenses for employers come with a fee on a sliding scale depending on how small/large the business is.  This fee covers the basic running costs for the foundation, plus standard cash and in-kind contributions from NGOs and companies.

9.- Differentiating types of employment (full, part, seasonal)


The living wage requires 38-39 hours (depending on region) for all full-time employees; is pro-rated for part-time employees; and requires more than 8 weeks of employment from seasonal/contract employees. 

Seasonal/occasional workers are somewhat of a question mark because there are large/iconic employers who want to be living wage employers, but who have a small number of permanent and large number of seasonal workers that do not meet the 8-week mark.  How can we engage these employers while still ensuring they meet certain wage standards for their employees?



10. Diversity in UK living wage employers

 There are many surprising, diverse living wage employers in the UK, local and big-name brands.


For more information on the UK's Living Wage Foundation, visit http://www.livingwage.org.uk 

Are you leading a living wage campaign and want to connect with other practitioners in Canada?
Contact natasha@tamarackcommunity.ca to join our bi-monthly Living Wage Community of Practice!