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Updates from the Living Wage Foundation

Over two-fifths of all supermarket workers earn below the real Living Wage

  • 42% of all supermarket workers in the UK - or 366,000 workers in total -earn below the real Living Wage  
  • Female supermarket workers are disproportionately affected by low pay in supermarkets, with 49% of female workers earning below the real Living Wage compared to 35% of men 

  • BAME workers are also disproportionately affected, with 44% of BAME workers earning below the real Living Wage compared to white workers (41%) 

  • Not one UK supermarket is an accredited Living Wage employer  

New research by the Living Wage Foundation demonstrates the scale of low pay in UK supermarkets, with almost half of all supermarket workers earning below the real Living Wage. This equates to 366,000 workers.  

The real Living Wage is the only rate calculated based on what people need to live on and it currently stands at £9.90 (UK) and £11.05 (London). Over 9,000 businesses pay the real Living Wage including Everton FC, Aviva, Burberry, KPMG and thousands of small-to-medium sized businesses. However, not one supermarket is accredited with the Living Wage Foundation. 

Today’s research found that low pay in supermarkets disproportionately affects women, BAME workers, part-time workers and over 65s: 

  • 49% of all female supermarket workers earn below the real Living Wage, compared to just 35% of men 

  • Workers from Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds (44%) are more likely to earn below the real Living Wage than their white counterparts (41%) 

  • Part time workers (55%) are also more likely to earn below the real Living Wage than full time workers (28%) 

  • Half (50%) of disabled workers in the supermarket sector earn below the Living Wage, compared to 41% of those without a disability.  

  • 65–69-year-olds were most likely to be earning below the real Living Wage (62%), followed by those aged 16–19-year-olds (61%) 

  • The North West is the region with the highest proportion of supermarket workers earning below the Living Wage (49%), followed by Northern Ireland (48%), London (47%) and the North East (47%). The East of England and the South East have the lowest proportion of supermarket workers earning below the Living Wage (37% respectively), followed by the West Midlands (38%). 

Despite December being the busiest month for supermarket sales, many supermarket workers are struggling to keep their heads above water earning below the real Living Wage. Research conducted by Organise found that 1 in 3 Sainsbury’s workers regularly worried about putting food and drink on the table and the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) reports that it has seen an increase in supermarket workers using their food banks.  

Katherine Chapman, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: “Despite record numbers of employers signing up to pay their staff the real Living Wage since the start of the pandemic, no supermarket has yet accredited as a Living Wage employer. Supermarket workers have been vital in keeping the country fed throughout Covid-19, yet 42% are paid a wage too low to cover basic living costs. As sales soar in the run up to Christmas, we hope that supermarkets will take that vital step and ensure that everyone who works for them is paid a real Living Wage and can put food on their tables, as well as ours. The prize of being the first Living Wage supermarket is there for the taking.” 

Rachel Hargreaves, Senior Project Officer – Good Work, ShareAction - “Investors consider the Living Wage standard as a marker of responsible business, and over the last 18 months since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen investors redouble their engagement efforts to encourage supermarkets to become accredited Living Wage employers. This is not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because paying a Living Wage has many benefits for businesses, such as improving customer perceptions, increasing staff motivation and reducing employee turnover.” 

Sabine Goodwin of the Independent Food Aid Network said: "In-work poverty is growing and yet more people working for supermarkets are needing to access food banks in our network. Supermarket delivery drivers shouldn't be delivering surplus food to a food bank one day then needing to use its services for themselves the next. Any member of the End Child Food Poverty Task Force should be prepared to pay a real Living Wage to its employees and prevent hunger from happening in the first place." 

The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, said: “I am extremely saddened by these statistics, which show almost half of all supermarket workers are paid below the real Living Wage. 

“These are people who risked their health to keep the country running at the height of the Covid pandemic, and yet we hear that one in three supermarket workers regularly skip meals due to low income. Christmas is the busiest time of year for supermarkets with many achieving record sales, but sadly many supermarket employees are seemingly struggling to put food on their own tables over the festive period. I call upon all supermarkets to honour the contributions of their workforce by pledging to become real Living Wage employers this Christmas.” 

 

Media contacts

Living Wage Foundation Media Contacts for interview requests:  
Maisie.Caro@LivingWage.org.uk  

Living Wage Foundation Research Contacts for questions on the data:  

Joe.richardson@livingwage.org.uk / 07740186651 

14th December 2021
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