The Living Wage is an example of how employers, campaigners and faith groups can work together to find practical ways to address working poverty and strengthen families today, without waiting for government to take action.
In the UK, the campaign for a Living Wage was launched by members of London Citizens in 2001. The founders were parents in the East End of London, who wanted to remain in work, but found that despite working two or more minimum wage jobs they were struggling to make ends meet and were left with no time for community and family life.
In 2005, following a series of successful Living Wage campaigns and growing interest from employers, the Greater London Authority established the Living Wage Unit to calculate the London Living Wage.
Then, in 2008, Trust for London selected the London Living Wage as a special initiative and made a grant of over £1 million to deliver direct campaign work, research and an accreditation scheme for employers.
A national movement
The campaign for a wage that is enough to live on has since grown into a national movement.
Local campaigns emerged across the UK offering the opportunity to involve many more employers and lift many more thousands of families out of working poverty.
The Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation began calculating a UK wide Minimum Income Standard (MIS) figure. The MIS is an average across the whole of the UK, but does not reflect the variation in the cost of living inside and outside of London.
In 2011 Citizens UK brought together grass roots campaigners and leading employers from across the UK, working closely with colleagues on the Scottish Living Wage Campaign in particular, to agree a method for setting the UK Living Wage outside of London, calculated by the CRSP.
At the same time, following consultation with campaigners, trade unions, employers who support the Living Wage and HR specialists, Citizens UK launched the Living Wage Foundation and Living Wage Employer mark.
These new initiatives from the UK-wide campaign recognise and celebrate the responsible leadership shown by employers who voluntarily take a stand to close the gap between what people need to live and the government minimum that every employer has to pay. The Foundation also supports employers to incorporate and maximise the benefits of investments in staff pay.
The campaign today
In 2016 the Foundation established a Living Wage Commission to oversee an aligned approach to setting the independent Living Wage rates, calculated by the Resolution Foundation based on the best available evidence about living standards in London and the UK.
In the same year the government took an important step towards closing the cost of living gap by introducing a higher minimum wage rate for over 25-year-olds, even calling it the 'national living wage'. But the government minimum is not calculated based on what people need to live.
With six million people paid less than a real Living Wage that meets the cost of living, the need for more employers to go further is greater than ever.
Since 2001 the campaign has impacted well over a hundred thousand employees and put hundreds of millions of pounds into the pockets of some of the lowest paid workers in the UK.
Paying the real Living Wage is a recognised sign of good practice in employment. There are now thousands of employers signed up and proudly displaying the Living Wage Employer Mark.