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A new report launched today by  Middlesex University London and University of Liverpool, shows the benefits for SMEs (small to medium enterprises) businesses in the workplace who pay the voluntary Living Wage, are fewer disputes amongst employees, a more productive workforce, an increase in staff motivation and an edge over competitors.

The voluntary Living Wage is currently £9.40 an hour in London and £8.25 an hour across the rest of the UK. This is sometimes confused with the National Living Wage (currently £7.20 an hour), which was introduced by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.

Putting the Living Wage to Work‘ is the first piece of research to consider the motivation behind small to medium enterprises who pay the  Living Wage. Researchers gathered responses from 60 organisations which responded to a questionnaire, as well as conducting 23 in-depth interviews.

The main findings from the 40-page report are:

  • Almost three quarters of respondents said they had seen a positive effect on their brand reputation by paying the Living Wage
  • 60% reported a positive effect on manager/employee relations in the workplace
  • Over 40% commented that employee morale and productivity had improved
  • Over three quarters of businesses said they paid the Living Wage because it is in line with their company’s values
  • Only 15% said paying the Living Wage had added more than 10% to their wage bill, compared to 40% who said it hadn’t made a difference.

SMEs represent over half of the 2,800 employers who have signed up voluntarily to pay the Living Wage. They make up 99% of all private sector businesses, collectively employing over 15.6 million workers across the UK.

The report also makes a number of recommendations for SMEs who are Living Wage employers:

  • They should develop clear moral and strategic rationales about why they want to be accredited as a voluntary Living Wage employer
  • They need to be clear about which benefits are relevant to their organisation and its success
  • Be prepared to make organisational changes to sustain commitment to voluntary Living Wage accreditation
  • Communicate the changes to employees
  • Publicise their commitment externally to paying the voluntary Living Wage by displaying the logo on company premises, website(s) and social media outlets.

Finally, the report gives guidance on how other organisations, like public sector institutions and members of SMEs can provide support and promote voluntary Living Wage adoption among small and medium-sized businesses.

Work is failing to provide the majority of working single parent families with the income they need, with two thirds (67 per cent) saying finances are a constant struggle at best and one in ten saying they are not coping financially [1], a new report from Gingerbread has found. More than 2,000 single parents shared their experiences in an online survey and 23 took part in one to one interviews with the charity for the report, Paying the Price: The long road to recovery.


Gingerbread’s research finds little evidence of an economic upturn in the lives of single parents in work or those desperately trying to break into a tough jobs market.  Single parents describe their battle to overcome the strains of low-paid work – with new findings showing they are almost twice as likely to be in low-paid jobs as other workers (39 per cent of working single parents compared with 21 per cent of working people nationally [2]).


Single parents are also facing marked job insecurity and unpredictable incomes: one in five (19 per cent) working single parent respondents had seen their income fall and one in four (26 per cent) non-working single parents left their last paid job after redundancy, having their wage or hours cut or their temporary contract ending [3].


The findings are backed up by troubling poverty figures published earlier this month, which showed child poverty in families where single parents work full-time has risen from 17 per cent to 22 per cent from 2011-12 to 2012-13 [4].  Single parents taking part in Gingerbread’s research reported taking on extra hours at work, working multiple jobs and having to take a gamble on temporary or zero-hours contracts as they attempt to mitigate wage cuts and the rising costs of family essentials.

  • One in six (16 per cent) of working single parents surveyed were juggling more than one job 
  • A quarter (26 per cent) of working single parents surveyed had increased their working hours in the last two years due to    financial necessity.


Even with these increases, 23 per cent of working single parents would still like to work more hours.  Twelve per cent of working single parents said they had experienced a temporary or fixed term contract for the first time in the past two years; 6 per cent said they had experienced a ‘zero-hours’ contract for the first time in the same period [5].


Single parent of one Alison Fulcher, 43, from Essex works two jobs to provide for herself and her daughter:   “I work 33 hours a week doing two jobs: a housekeeper and a cleaner. For one of my jobs, while I really like the company I work for, I’m earning just above the minimum wage. Trying to bridge the gap between my earnings and the rent and our increased council tax bill is difficult. I absolutely want to contribute and pay my taxes, but on a low income, it’s not easy.


“Last summer I had to sell my car, I just couldn’t manage the running costs. I really miss it and being without it means I have to use the local supermarkets, which are more expensive. I’ve worked really hard to keep up with rising costs, but it’s a struggle.”


Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said: “Single parents are working incredibly hard to provide for their families, but all too often they are barely keeping up with the costs of the essentials for their families. There is little sign of an economic recovery for parents who have had to go without another meal and face the nagging, gnawing worry of bills marked ‘final warning’.


“Our report shows that for single parent families, work isn’t a golden ticket out of poverty, low-paid jobs aren’t a rite of passage and a recovering job market is still leaving many behind.”


Single parents trying to find work reported overwhelming pressure from the job centre in a job market where they felt disadvantaged, with few part-time or flexible jobs on offer for parents needing to juggle childcare with work. More than half (56 per cent) of non-working single parents said that inflexible working hours stopped them from applying jobs all or most of the time [6].


Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir added: “Single parents are the sole earners for their family, so it’s absolutely vital that, when they go out to work, their job pays a decent wage and offers them stability.


“Without action from government and employers on in-work financial support, low-pay and job security, too many single parent families will remain trapped in poverty and left out of the recovery.”


The report from Gingerbread is the second in its three-year research project on the impact of austerity on single parent families. A summary of the report is available here.  Both reports are available at


Read the blog by Gingerbread’s Research Officer, Sumi Rabindrakumar

Sumi Rabindrakumar, Gingerbread’s research officer, says that the upturn in employment may be good news for some, but few single parents are reaping the benefits


Work, for single parents, isn’t easy at the best of times. As both the main carer and main earner supporting their family, it can be tough to find a job that allows single parents to juggle childcare as well as pay the bills. But new research from Gingerbread shows that single parents are now also battling low pay, insufficient hours and job insecurity in today’s job market. The end result is that work is failing to provide the majority of working single parent families with the income they need.


No pay, no gain


Our latest report, The long road to recovery, reveals the gulf between a recovering economy and the real-life experiences of working single parents. Around two in five working single parents surveyed are low-paid.  A quarter had experienced a wage cut in the last six months alone.  And 30 per cent had experienced unpaid overtime in the last two years, for the first time.


“I am earning less per hour than I was four years ago”


Pay aside, many single parents simply can’t find the working hours they want and need – the proportion of single parents working part-time when they want full-time hours has doubled since 2007. Over half of non-working single parents surveyed said inflexible hours stopped them from applying for jobs all or most of the time.


And now single parents must deal with the job insecurity that has emerged since the recession. Around a quarter of non-working single parents said they’d left their last job due to hours or wage cuts, a temporary job ending or redundancy. And once out of work, the support provided is often focused on job search targets, rather than meaningful support to help single parents back into sustainable employment.


“I found myself just applying for jobs…that I’d already been rejected for, just to meet the quota they had set me”


Single parents are doing all they can to keep their heads above water, with many working multiple jobs and long hours to cover their bills. But, in the face of a long-term fall in wages, rising living costs and recent welfare cuts, it can feel like a losing battle. And no wonder, when single parents now need to earn more than twice as much as they did in 2008 to meet a basic standard of living.


A call for action


It’s clear that work is no golden ticket out of poverty. We cannot dismiss the problem of low-paid and insecure jobs as a rite of passage, just the first step on a long-term career path. As the Resolution Foundation found, people are too often trapped in jobs that offer little pay and no progression.   Single parents have been disproportionately hit by welfare cuts and there may be more on the horizon. As the safety net is pulled away, we need action now to ensure single parents can support their families.   Gingerbread wants to see the government improve support for single parents getting back to work, moving away from the ‘work-first’ approach that pushes single parents to take any job. We need stronger in-work financial support to soften financial barriers to work. And the government must work with employers to promote flexible working and tackle low pay and job insecurity.   The government wants to ensure the economy grows and to reduce welfare spending – when getting just 5 per cent more single parents into the workforce could save over £400m, why not make them part of the solution rather than risk isolating them further?


“I work 24-hour shifts and longer very often…I’m missing all the little important parts of my little girl growing up and it breaks my heart!  All this and I still fail to make ends meet…my cupboards are bare”


Sumi Rabindrakumar is Gingerbread’s Research Officer. Paying the Price is a research project being carried out by Gingerbread, with funding from Barrow Cadbury Trust and Trust for London.  The Long Road to Recovery is the second report from the project; you can read the report at

Saidul Haque Saeed, Community Organiser for Citizens UK: Birmingham, blogs about the success of a recent Public Accountability Assembly


Founded in April 2013, Citizens UK: Birmingham – a chapter of Citizens UK – is our city’s largest civil society alliance of faith, education, trade union and community groups, committed to training and applying the craft of community organising.


Last summer, we launched a ‘citizen’s listening campaign’ when teams of leaders in each community had thousands of face to face conversations. We heard the real life stories of the people of our city. We built relationships and we built collective power.  Then in October over 200 of us came together to turn these stories into a common social justice agenda and recruit leaders onto action teams. We have 5 specific areas of work: living wage, mental health, jobs, benefit payment delays and public safety. Five action teams have been working hard over the last 6 months to impact change.


On the evening of Wednesday 14 May, 429 citizens from across our membership and diverse communities gathered to do some business at our Public Accountability Assembly. We put our priorities to the decision-making powers in Birmingham. This was not a hustings or an elections debate. We assembled to seek public commitments to our specific social justice agenda.  Our approach is simple and effective.  We believe that ‘90% of an action is turn out’, mobilising hundreds of people from across our alliance to attend. The buzz and energy in the room with so many people added to the sense of unity and reinforced what a milestone the evening was.


Every proposal was preceded by a moving testimony by a person affected by the issue. They were people speaking publicly for the first time in their lives – the youngest were 10 years old.  No multi-slide power point presentations for speakers to hide behind, no jargon and strategy speak.  Any long-winded response not addressing the issue wasn’t going to go down well when compared to the powerful testimony which connected with the audience moments earlier.


And then we put our proposals to the decision-makers to see if they agreed with them. And they all did – with every proposal we put forward.


  • We won a pledge from a Clinical Commissioning Group Chair for a world class mental health service for young people, ending the scandal of no access for 16 and 17-year-olds.
  • We won the Council’s backing for our campaign to make Birmingham a Living Wage city and a commitment to a roundtable meeting with employers and business leaders on jobs investment.
  • We won the Police Commissioner’s backing to pilot the CitySafe scheme in our neighbourhoods. He also agreed to host a meeting with the boss of National Express (re bus safety).
  • We secured the Department for Work & Pension’s commitment to take action on benefit payment delays and provide a direct contact point for our alliance to refer cases.


Community organising is about building power and participating in democracy: being realistic in what we demand and winning key victories to improve the lives of people across the city. There is no better example of this than from the many young people at the Assembly who demonstrated their readiness and ability to train as leaders and act in public life.



Email:  [email protected]      twitter:  @CitizensUKBham        facebook:  Citizens UK Birmingham

Following the recent living wage increase, Communications Officer Sapphire Mason-Brown looks at the prevalence of low pay and the advantages of the living wage


On Tuesday, the new living wage was announced at £7.65 outside of London and £8.80 within the capital. This comes after the minimum wage was increased to £6.31 last month.


The living wage is calculated annually with separate rates for those living outside London (by the Centre for Research on Social Policy at Loughborough University), and for those living in the capital city (by the Greater London Authority’s Living Wage Unit).  The living wage is predicated on one simple fact: vast numbers of people in work do not earn enough to live on. The introduction of the minimum wage in 1999 has acted as a buffer against some of the most extreme forms of low pay but, with living standards rising and minimum wage increases failing to keep up with the rate of inflation, the minimum wage is not a buffer or a solution to low, insecure pay.


The Resolution Foundation’s report, Low Pay Britain 2013, found that the number of people being paid less than the living wage has rocketed in recent years, increasing from 3.4m in 2009 to 4.8m in April 2012, making up 20% of the workforce.


Low pay is a significant contributor to in-work poverty, and the institute for Fiscal Studies’ analysis demonstrated that hourly pay is a better predictor of in-work poverty than hours of work. However, the characteristics of a person’s job does contribute to the risk of low pay.


Low Pay Britain 2013 illustrated that some groups are more vulnerable to being in low pay than others:

  • Women make up the majority of low paid workers whilst a recent report by the TUC illustrated that low pay amongst young women has trebled over the last 20 years.
  • Low pay is higher amongst those in low- and middle-skilled occupations such as sales or customer services, as well as those on part time or temporary contacts.
  • Older and younger workers are more likely to be paid below the living wage threshold.
  • 16-20 year olds make up 83% of those in extreme low pay.


Current political discourse surrounding making work pay has continuously highlighted work as the best means of getting out of poverty. However, this is only possible if work pays enough for people to live on and if they are in secure roles with opportunities to progress. Without a living wage, in-work poverty persists and low wages will continually be subsidised by the taxpayer.  Since launching in 2001, the Living Wage Campaign has won over £210m of additional wages, lifting 40,000 families out of poverty, and over 430 employers have been accredited as living wage employers.


The living wage benefits both workers and employers, as highlighted by joint research from the Queen Mary University of London and Trust for London. Employees are not only better able to provide for themselves and families but also reported that being paid a living wage allowed them to spend more time with their families. Living wage employers benefitted from having more positive and loyal employees as well as better retention rates.


However, despite the traction the campaign has gained thus far, there is still a way to go. To support the millions of people currently in low-paid roles, more employers need to join the existing 450 employers already committed to paying the living wage, and across different sectors. This comes at only a small cost to the organisations. A commitment to the living wage, alongside secure employment, provides the best means of lifting people out of in work poverty whilst at the same time creating better workplaces.

Equality and the taxpayer stand to benefit from the further spread of the living wage, argues Barrow Cadbury Trust Communications and Programmes LLW Intern, Sapphire Mason-Brown.


The UK’s minimum wage is to rise to £6.31 for adults and £5.03 for 18-to-20-year-olds with business secretary Vince Cable stating that “Nobody in the country should be paid less than the minimum wage”. Some commentators have raised the question of whether the minimum wage keeps up with the cost of living and this question is an interesting one, as despite the number of times it has been raised and words expended asking it, the answer is quite simple: alas, no. Since 2009 minimum wage increases have regularly fallen behind the rate of inflation leaving minimum wage earners paying more for goods and services without their wages rising in line with this. Vince Cable is just in saying that there is a wage that nobody in the country should be paid less than, but is this wage a minimum wage?


When we speak of the cost of living, this is often within the context of the welfare state and whether benefit payments are too great or too small. However, in-work poverty is common with many simply not earning enough to provide for themselves and their families. This is a problem that the younger sibling of the minimum wage, the living wage, looks to address.


When advocating the living wage, there is a tendency to separate between moral and economic benefits, however, any discussion should give consideration to both. Ensuring employees are paid a sum that doesn’t leave them living in poverty or on the brink of poverty is the ethical thing to do and is one of the soundest means of “making work pay”. Since the inception of the Living Wage Campaign in 2001, 45,000 have been lifted out of poverty as a result. More than just a concept that politicians pay lip service to, the living wage has elicited change in the way its advocates intended, and with the Trust for London estimating that all low paid workers in London alone being paid the living could save the government £823 million per annum, the economic benefits are apparent.


Young workers are much more likely than their older counterparts to be working for a low wage. In addition to this, there is the expectation that many young people work for no pay as a precursor to finding a paid position. Whilst youth unemployment continues to rise, in many sectors young people are pressured to take on unpaid positions simply to get their foot in the door.


As an intern I’m highly aware of the trope of the suffering unpaid intern, forever bearing a heavy load of work that should be assigned to a paid staff member. Tanya De Grunwald of Graduate Fog has waged a war against this calling out organisations that take on unpaid interns for positions that should be filled by paid staff. One firm that has incurred her wrath is French fashion house Balenciaga for their request for unpaid sales assistant interns; a position involving all the features of working as a sales assistant with none of the financial returns. An option only available to those financially stable enough to generate no income for a prolonged period of time.


In a period where youth employment prospects are particularly low, many see these unpaid options as a necessary stepping-stone. At first glance it may seem counter-intuitive to spend four weeks working as a sales assistant for no pay, but the opportunity to say that you’ve worked for a high-brow fashion house may be just what someone wishing to crack the seemingly impenetrable world of fashion is looking for.


What this says about employment prospects is sad, at a time when youth unemployment is rising; numerous organisations take advantage of a desire for that coveted concept – experience.


An adoption of the living wage for all workers including interns is not something that will happen overnight, but whilst it is accepted that some people are paid less than they need to survive on, or nothing at all, the problem of in-work poverty will continue to increase and some sectors will continue to have barriers to entry which exclude those from a lower socioeconomic background. Organisations becoming living wage employers begin to solve these problems and in doing so, they step closer to becoming ethical workplaces that practise equality and diversity through genuinely facilitating inclusion.