Living Wage Employers lead the way with initiatives to support staff during cost-of-living crisis


Updates from the Living Wage Foundation


With Inflation at its highest levels in four decades and fast-approaching double figures, paying staff a real Living Wage based on the cost of living has never been more important.

In addition to paying the Living Wage, our network of accredited Living Wage Employers is going above and beyond to support their staff with a range of measures to help ease the pinch, providing extra support to their employees. We wanted to know more - and so did other employers in the network - so last week we brought together some of these employers to share what they've been doing.

One off cash payments

Youth charity Street League and FinTech company Wealthify both dipped into their reserves to give direct cash handouts to their workers of £500 and £750 respectively in response to the cost of living crisis. Street League have budgeted to attempt to do the same thing next year and their Managing Director, Dougie Stevenson, said:

"In terms of employee value propositioning, the feedback, motivation and energy in the organisation that has absolutely blown the roof of the feedback and energy from staff and has really changed ourselves from a cultural perspective as well".

Increased profit-shares and pay rises

In a similar vein, clothing supplier One+All increased the profit share given to their workers. This year COOK handed workers its biggest pay rise yet of four per cent, and One+All funded a cross-company pay rise by giving a pay boost to everyone except the directors. Wealthify already provides an annual bonus to staff based on organisational performance. Nicola Ryan, Director of Colleague Support at One+All explained that giving back to staff had led to business benefits:

"Since we've started putting colleagues and customers before shareholders, we've become commercially more successful too." 

0% interest hardship loans

Hardship or crisis loans are available to workers at COOK, One+All and Everton Football Club. These interest-free loans are seen as an alternative to high-interest payday lenders. At COOK workers can borrow up to £2000 for emergencies. Everyone who takes out a loan at COOK gets access to Octopus money coach to help them manage their budget in future, and similarly creditor employees at One and All get access to a full money management programme. The loans are paid off in affordable amounts from future paychecks. 

One+All has also implemented an emergency fund this year which all colleagues can take from and will be repaid through future profit shares. 

Special paid projects

Street League allows employees to develop discreet projects in addition to their dayjobs in exchange for remuneration on top of their wages. For instance, during lockdown the charity needed to develop its online services which became a project of some of its employees. Workers can earn £1000, £2000, or £3000 on top of their regular earnings through this scheme. In addition, Street League paid all their UK workers the London Living Wage to address regional inequalities in pay. 

Money management tools and advice 

Almost all employers who spoke at our webinar provided financial management tools or advice services to employees to help them understand how they spend their money. 

Everton Football Club created a bespoke financial well-being tool to help employees understand where they spend their money, where the pressures are and then signposts them to services which can support them with those pressures. Anonymised data then enables Everton FC to see where they can provide more education and support, such as adapting sessions on debt to resonate more with their employees' needs. The club also offers free access to a mortgage advice service through Charles Cameron.

Wealthify also offers continuous financial education and training programmes to employees. 

Nye Cominetti from the Resolution Foundation (and partof the team that calculate then Living Wage rate) pointed out that billions of pounds in benefits goes unclaimed, and advised employers to make their employees aware of what they are entitled to by signposting them to the Citizens Advice Bureau and similar advice services. 

Becoming a Living Hours Employer

One+All has built on its Living Wage accreditation by becoming a Living Hours Employer. The Living Wage Foundation's Living Hours standard ensures employers provide the right to:

  • Decent notice periods for shifts: of at least 4 weeks’ notice, with guaranteed payment if shifts are cancelled within this notice period
  • The right to a contract that reflects accurate hours worked
  • A guaranteed minimum of 16 hours a week (unless the worker requests otherwise)

There are 20 Living Hours employers, including Aviva, abrdn, SSE and SpareRoom.

Other initiatives 

Other initiatives included healthcare cash plans, employee discount schemes, employer funded pension contributions and support at particular points of the lifecourse such as increased parental leave.

It's really motivating to see how much support is being offered to employees beyond paying the real Living Wage, and we thought you'd leave you with inspiring piece of advice from Rhiannon Maggs of Wealthify: 

"A lot of people have joined here today because people are your passion, so just remember that if you're struggling to get things across the line in the workplace, get the evidence, do the political management, because whatever you're trying to push forward is right, and you should believe in yourself. Reach out to your networks, I'm here, we're all here, the Living Wage Foundation is here to support you".

We're all facing the squeeze, but it's the lowest paid in society that are hardest hit and that's why paying the real Living Wage has never been more important. You can accredit as a Living Wage Employer here