A Living Wage Celebrated

This week has been designated ‘Living Wage Week’when companies and charities who are signed up as living wage employers are celebrated and the new living wage rates are announced.  The Jesuits in Britain became accredited Living Wage employers at the beginning of 2016.  The living wage is a voluntary rate that is higher than the minimum wage and takes into account the cost of living in the UK and in London. Living wage rates, which are set by the Living Wage Commission, increased this week to £8.75 an hour in the UK and £10.20 an hour in London, up by 30p and 45p per hour respectively on last year’s rates. It is the first time the London rate has reached the £10 an hour mark, a significant threshold. 

The idea of a just living wage can trace its roots back to Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891. The modern Living Wage movement in Britain first began in a meeting in East London when Citizens UK brought together churches, mosques and schools in 2001. This lead to a march down Mile End and a call for staff working in East London hospitals to be paid a ‘living wage’.   The London living wage was championed citywide by then-mayor Ken Livingston after a successful Citizens UK Assembly.  In 2011 the movement became national and the Living Wage Foundation was launched, and in 2012 the London Olympics became the first ‘Living Wage Olympics’.

Currently, a third of the FTSE 100 companies are accredited but until now only 14 of the country’s top 100 charities have signed up.  Tim Edwards, the financial director of the Jesuits in Britain said  “We are proud as a charity to continue supporting the Living Wage movement and I encourage other charities to follow this path’. The Living Wage commitment applies to everyone working at the Jesuits in Britain, regardless of whether they are permanent employees or third-party contractors and suppliers.

The launch of the Living Wage Friendly Funder scheme is an attempt to bridge the gap between business and charities. Aimed at potential funders and grant makers, to qualify for accreditation potential funders must support successful applicant charities to pay the Living Wage to any grant-funded staff posts.