Renewal North West is the proud winner of our Living Wage Window competition! Hear from Wesley Downs, Renewal’s CEO and Ben, who works at Renewal and is paid the real Living Wage, about why they entered, and why they care about the real Living Wage.
Wesley, could you tell us a bit about Renewal North West?
Absolutely! At Renewal, we provide employment and skills development for people coming from long-term unemployed situations to help get them back into work. They are often people with a history of offending, addiction, or homelessness. We run various businesses to provide work experience, which include a furniture and appliance reuse project, a house-clearance business, a charity shop, an eBay shop, and a coffee shop - we keep busy! We’re also a Christian charity, so faith runs through everything we do.
Why is paying the real Living Wage important to Renewal North West?
Because we employ people who have been in long-term unemployment, we want to set a good example of what employment should look like. That means paying a wage that enables people to have a good life.
Being accredited with the Living Wage Foundation also gives us credibility with employers in the area and the community we’re serving, so they know we're doing the right thing by our employees. And there are lots of benefits that have come out of that. The relationship between paying people decently and the growth and development of the organisation is a very clear one.
We’d love to hear more about your Living Wage Window, could you tell us about it?
We’re very fortunate that our retail manager is very creative and loves window dressing. She has real creative flair, she got the staff inking their hands to make prints on the window, and some of our customers even participated! And it was well received - people stopped to look, and hopefully it’s setting a good example for the community. I am surprised at how few Living Wage employers there are in Stockport. Hopefully we are trailblazers, and we can set an example.
In light of the cost of living crisis, what would you say to an organisation that doesn’t pay the Living Wage?
I know during this time some companies think perhaps they can’t afford to pay the real Living Wage. But I also think employers should ask themselves if they want their employees struggling to heat their homes, feed their families, or travel to work. It's short-term thinking to decide they’re not able to pay what's needed for people to live properly.
If employees are struggling on the breadline they won’t be motivated at work, their minds are going to be on other things – like finding a better-paying job! As an employer, that's the last thing I want. I want my staff to come to work knowing they're provided for, they're rewarded, they've got enough to live on.
Ben, you’ve worked at Renewal for four years, but have you worked on the government minimum wage before? If so, what was that like?
There were times I wasn't able to make ends meet, I've had to use credit cards or loans to pay bills in the past. Working for an organisation where pay is secure and enough to live on means you can get on a level-playing field, and you’re not panicking at the end of every month.
Funnily enough, my wife also works part-time for Renewal, so we don't have zero at the end of the month anymore. It's a nice position to be in when we can actually save or spend a little. You're not fighting to keep your head above water, which was definitely my experience being on the government minimum wage - that sense of struggling for months. Being paid a real Living Wage is a constant and a big reassurance for us as a family. It means I don't spend sleepless nights worrying anymore.
What difference does being paid the real Living Wage at Renewal make to you?
For me, it means I can plan better for future events. As a family, we can put money aside for a hard time, if a bill comes through or an appliance breaks down, we can have an emergency fund. It was my daughter's birthday this weekend for example, and usually January is a horrible month, but we haven't had to borrow. It makes a huge difference, not owing a penny to anyone, not needing to borrow off family or friends. You can have a bit more peace in your life knowing you can make ends meet.