I was asked to be a part of a panel on a Living Wage Symposium organised by Southwark Council and held at the House of Commons on 2nd March 2016. The event brought together a panel that included a variety of stakeholders including businesses in the hospitability industry, affordable accommodation advocates, economists and of course Jane Jefferson Cleaning and the event was attended by over 50 people from employers, business groups, local government, trade unions, community groups, charities and think tanks who contributed to the debate around some of the keys challenges of the Living Wage and to identify tangible steps to help different organisations implement a London Living Wage policy. [/cs_text]
It was clear that the Living Wage has many benefits for employees and employers alike. Independent research, commissioned by the Living Wage Foundation, has found that 75% of employees reported increased in work quality as a result of receiving the Living Wage.
I shared some of the experiences of my workers and the impact of the living wage at Jane Jefferson Cleaning.
“When I spoke to one of my employees about what they love about the living wage their response was “for my customers I go the extra mile.”
“The benefits of paying the Living Wage are significant. I’ve seen big savings in time and cost. Recruitment, initial and ongoing training. I get a much better quality and quantity of candidates that come to me and we don’t have to spend loads of time training them. The administration is significantly reduced. Also sickness and unauthorised absences have been reduced significantly.”
I also shared some of the significant challenges.
“It’s very tough. As a small business you are treated exactly the same as a big business. I want to be an employer and not an agency, but the costs associated with that are high. Sick pay is a huge threat to my business, if I have two or three employees on long term sick at the same time I could go out of business. Also VAT is a problem and raises the cost to the customer.”
“Delivering on fair pay has been one of my biggest challenges and the reason for that is I’m operating in a black and grey market. Cash in hand is rife in the cleaning industry. People are set up as self-employed and agencies sub-contract the work to the cleaner, which means they don’t give the cleaner any rights. Sometimes people will think that they are paying their cleaner a living wage through going through an agency but if you haven’t got any stability how can you survive?”
The symposium was a positive and open debate and there are many obvious benefits for employees and employers. It was also clear that there are many complexities in individual circumstances for both workers and business in considering the Living Wage and opening up a discussion across business, government and employees is an important part of the contribution to challenging wage insecurity in London.