Thomas Kneale & Co Ltd, based in Manchester, are Manufacturers, Importers & Distributors of Contract Bedding, Fire Retardant Fabrics, Towels, Curtaining & Household Textiles. Living Wage accredited since 2015, they jumped at the chance to commit to the Living Hours initiative.
Centuries ago, worker rights were extremely limited: the working day was long, health & safety often disregarded and pay barely enough to get by. Over time, improvements have been made to get us to where we are today. But is where we are today the end of the journey?
The Government implemented a minimum wage as late as the end of the 20th century - merely 25 years ago - but the hourly amount was not calculated to ensure it met the real cost of living. Despite being rebranded as the ‘National Living Wage’, that fact still stands. In contrast, the real Living Wage campaigned for by the Living Wage Foundation, is independently calculated to meet everyday needs.
At Thomas Kneale, we have always been strong advocates for employee rights and the company knows it achieves success when staff are motivated and empowered and have a clear sense that the company genuinely cares, supports and respects.
Today there is a plethora of ‘employee benefits schemes’ and whilst helpful as part of a wider remuneration package, they can sometimes be used as a way to drive down pay.
We believe that employees should receive an hourly pay rate/salary that reflects their contribution to the business and provides them with a decent standard of living. Their pay should be enough to cover the most basic bills and, crucially, also enjoy a disposable income to enjoy life, be it holidays, meals out or nights at the theatre.
A ‘zero hours’ job does not equate to a Living Wage job, with total pay based only on the number of hours worked, which can vary weekly or change at the drop of a hat!
The upshot is that the employee has no guarantee of hours, or worse still, has expected hours cut.
Irrespective of the peaks and troughs of business, Thomas Kneale has always felt it important to ensure that fixed, contractual hours are implemented in our employment contracts. Rents, mortgages or council tax bills have to be paid every month, so what is an employee supposed to do if they can’t count on the same wages each month?
Brett Mendell, Company Performance Director at Thomas Kneale said: “We have always ensured that our colleagues have fixed, contracted core hours as well as a true hourly living wage. Providing our team with certainty over the number of hours they work is acknowledged by them as lowering financial related stress, and making them more motivated and productive in the workplace. Additionally, our colleague average length of service is high, with some of the team with us for over 25 years, and our absence and staff turnover rates extremely low.”
We feel that the benefits to employees of working for both a Living Wage and Living Hours company are obvious and the impact on their lives significant. That is the reason we do it at Thomas Kneale. Of course we realise the benefits flow back to the organisation too. In our experience, people who have financial security come to work feeling less anxious, more committed and happier. We have a family at home, but we also have a family at work. I know this sounds cliché, but it is true. The psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs starts with physiological needs, followed by safety. If people cannot afford to heat and eat, then what hope is there for self-esteem, self-actualisation, career and vocational progress?
Katie Beech, Business Development Executive at Thomas Kneale said: “Prior to joining Thomas Kneale, I have worked in two roles on a zero hours contract. This meant if there wasn’t enough work available, I had no guaranteed income or hours. With all the bills and financial responsibilities I have this was a very stressful situation to be in and left no room for financial planning. Since joining Thomas Kneale, I have been on a full-time contract, I feel very well settled in this role and the certainty has brought me significant benefits. Over the last year the company has made two cost of living support payments in recognition of the significant cost prices on everything from food shopping to rent. This level of support and recognition from your employer goes a long way in the difficult times we are all facing.”
The Living Wage Foundation, who have campaigned for organisations and companies to pay a real Living Wage for over a decade, are now shining a light on the issue of insecure hours. While Thomas Kneale was already providing security and certainty in this area, we felt it important to sign up to this initiative so we can promote it and drive it across industry.
We hope customers, suppliers and the wider business community in general will sign up to this accreditation, thereby providing financial comfort and security to working people. After all, is this not a basic human right?