Guest Blog: Robert Stephenson-Padron, Penrose Care
The modern Living Wage provides light in a dark cynical age
In 2016, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks warned against dangers simmering in Western societies from the outsourcing of moral responsibility. Today, we can indeed feel that there is a dark air of cynicism in the West. Fortunately, there is a glimmer of hope that rejects this cynicism: the modern Living Wage movement launched by Citizens UK in 2001.
There is an allure to the outsourcing of moral responsibility which stems from our aversion to feelings of guilt from bad acts. If a corporate decision-maker can outsource the moral responsibility of say, the exploitation of workers on their premises to boost the bottom line, then why not? You get the benefits of your outsourcing but the brunt of any guilt stemming from the costs of these benefits – the labour exploitation – is borne by the outsourcing firm.
In the UK, we see the results of outsourcing without reference to human dignity starkly demonstrated in the ailing home care sector. Years of Local Councils tendering out home care services to the lowest bidders without reference to minimum legal labour standards resulted in a sector of contract winners that widely pay their care workers below the minimum wage. There is a deep instability in this system however, demonstrated by three of the UK’s top five home care operators exiting the market in the years following the increase in penalties for minimum wage underpayment in 2014.
In this era where the buck stops with no one, the accreditation process of being a real Living Wage Employer recognises that the buck stops with you – by requiring you to roll-out the Living Wage to both directly employed and third party contracted staff.
By making the courageous moral choice to pay your workers - employed and sub-contracted - a wage they can live on, you are recognising that all your colleagues have dignity as human beings. This courage sets you apart in a cynical age which often sees human beings more as factory inputs stored in a warehouse when not needed.
Courage is costly though and realistically, the Living Wage choice means you need to build and maintain an organisation that is voluntarily taking on a higher cost base than your peers and yet must still be viable and sustainable.
This is where the Living Wage Foundation, and its celebratory awards such as the Living Wage Champion Awards, are key. By helping to publicise the ethical nature of your organisation, the awards can help you raise your brand awareness, and signal your high quality, helping you sustain your Living Wage commitment.
This has been a key recipe for success for my organisation, Penrose Care, which was one of the UK’s first accredited Living Wage Employers.
By working as partners with employers, the Living Wage movement builds up workplaces that adhere to moral responsibility. In a cynical world, the Living Wage Employer stands as a visible sign that humans can be good. And together, we in the Living Wage movement will continue to make history, tilting it towards goodness and justice.
Robert Stephenson-Padron is the managing director of home care provider Penrose Care, the winner of the Living Wage Champion award in 2016 for the London region. Penrose Care has been an accredited Living Wage Employer since 2012.