Living Wage Public Bodies
The Living Wage Foundation have compiled research with the Smith Institute which reveals that as many as 1.2 million people working for the NHS, councils and other public sector employers receive low wages of less than £9 an hour, or £10.55 in London.
Public sector workers, employed either directly by the state or on outsourced contracts, account for up to 20% of the 6 million people in Britain paid less than this level. The real living wage is higher than the government’s legally enforceable “national living wage” of £8.21 an hour.
The report revealed the vast majority of public sector workers earning below the real living wage are in local authority jobs, including teaching assistants, cleaners, care workers and catering staff. Almost half a million are on outsourced contracts, while 725,000 work directly for a public sector body. The research is summarized on the Living Wage Foundation website.
As the accrediting body in Wales; we propose that all public bodies should work toward accreditation in an effort to lead by example as often large employers with strong public presences and clear opportunities to strengthen local economies through the driving of fair pay practices. They also have the opportunity to lead on procurement practice and how this can be implemented. The Code of Practice: Ethical Employment in Supply Chains offers a Guide on Implementing the Living Wage.
Of the 44 public bodies in Wales there is currently one local authority accredited – Cardiff Council, and they join Welsh Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales along with commissioner’s offices including the Older People’s Commissioner, Children’s Commissioner and Future Generations Commissioner.
The Office of the Future Generations Commissioner urges public bodies to become Living Wage accredited as one of their suggested simple changes . The ‘Art of the Possible’ is one of the Commissioner’s main programmes of work. It is a partnership approach to shining a light on great work that is improving well-being in communities across Wales. It will set out a positive vision of what a ‘possible’ Wales could look like if public bodies respond to the opportunities that the Well-being of Future Generations legislation provides in order to make better decisions. Becoming a Living Wage employer is part of this positive vision for the future under the well-being goal of ‘a prosperous Wales.’
As stated by Professor Kate Pickett in the January 2014 report If you could do one thing: nine local actions to reduce health inequalities:
“The single best action that I believe local authorities can take to reduce health inequalities is to implement a living wage policy.”
Professor Pickett’s paper in the same report, Addressing Health Inequalities Through Greater Social Equality at a Local Level: Implement a Living Wage Policy also focuses on the other noted social benefits of the payment of a living wage including a route out of in-work poverty, incentive to work, improvements in work quality and productivity, and positive impacts on recruitment and retention- including decreases in absenteeism and improved well-being.
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Do you work in the public sector? Would you like to hear more about links between the well-being of future generations and the payment of a living wage?