Latest News
Updates from the Living Wage Foundation

How to build back better with Living Wage Places

How to build back better with Living Wage Places

By Gail Irvine, Senior Policy and Development Officer, Carnegie UK Trust

In May, I joined the Living Wage Foundation and employers from around the UK at an online event called ‘Building Back Better Through Living Wage Places.’

This was the first in a series of learning events bringing together existing, and interested-to-become, Living Wage Places to discuss the practice of the Living Wage Places model.

The context, of course, was one of continued uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken a severe toll on so many businesses and individuals. But alongside its devastating social and economic impacts, arguably the pandemic has created a renewed sense of solidarity in many firms, as business owners, managers and staff have sought to navigate the challenges together. We have also seen extraordinary examples of business creativity and innovation.

Living Wage Places is an innovation that pre-dates the pandemic. The idea for a place-based approach to grow the Living Wage movement germinated in 2017. Since then, with support from the Carnegie UK Trust, the Living Wage Foundation and Living Wage Scotland have established and piloted a series of Living Wage Places across the UK.

At the heart of each Living Wage Place – whether it be a region, city, town or building – are Action Groups of local Living Wage employers, who work together to create and deliver an Action Plan to grow the number of Living Wage employers in the region, so boosting the number of local people earning at least a Living Wage.

As part of our research examining the impact of COVID-19 on worker wellbeing in the labour market, we at Carnegie UK have done a great deal of thinking about the role of employers in supporting a positive recovery. While the labour market is also shaped by economic and cultural factors and the legislative context, employer choices matter deeply. Employers have faced huge challenges throughout the pandemic.

Yet it is a hopeful sign that the commitment to paying the Living Wage has held up strongly, even while businesses have faced such challenges to their business models. Last year there were over 800 new employers signing up to pay the Living Wage, suggesting that many businesses see the value in paying the Living Wage to support their people and community, and reap the benefits through improved worker productivity and loyalty.

With their established employer networks, brand recognition and ability to tap into pride and commitment to local place, Living Wage Places have the potential to be key actors in sustaining and growing the Living Wage movement, and being champions for other key aspects of work-related wellbeing.

This event was an opportunity for the pioneering Living Wage Places to share their journey so far with other places around the UK interested in the model. The discussion included a focus on how local areas have been impacted and have responded to the pandemic. I was struck by the upbeat and pragmatic approach of many of the participants in the event. They were commendably frank and insightful in sharing their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities of growing the Living Wage movement in the era of COVID-19. Below are just some of the insights shared in the event:

  • The importance of harnessing the individual strengths of different members of local Action Groups, which are made up of local employers from the public, private and third sectors. All employers on these Groups, particularly in these extraordinary times, face different pressures and constraints. But all are committed to the Living Wage, and, coming in with their individual skills and networks of contracts, can each contribute in different ways to growing the Living Wage movement locally.  
  • Face-to-face interactions had been deeply missed among organisations where staff were working at home. But the ubiquitous uptake of meetings via video calls has provided a useful means of keeping Action Group members in touch with each other, and motivated around the cause, and of scheduling in short meetings with time-poor employers who could be persuaded to become Living Wage accredited.
  • There was a real appetite to learn and share effective approaches to marketing and communicating about Living Wage Places, with participants fascinated in approaches which had made a splash and attracted local employers to engage in the movement.

You can read more by accessing a short briefing from the event here.

Find out more about how to become a Living Wage Place here.

About the Carnegie UK Trust

The Carnegie UK Trust is an endowed charitable foundation which aims to improve the wellbeing of the people in the UK and Ireland through policy and practice. Gail works on the Carnegie UK Trust’s Fulfilling Work thematic priority, which has a focus on driving the creation of more ‘good quality’ work in the labour market, with the aim of ensuring that work supports individual, community and societal wellbeing.

6th July 2021
Back to News