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Why it’s important that Herbert Smith Freehills pay the Living Wage

Emma Cooke, Head of Citizenship, Herbert Smith Freehills

Herbert Smith Freehills is a large global law firm operating out of 27 offices around the world. When you think about lawyers, images of Harvey Specter from the American legal drama TV series Suits may spring to mind, and you may wonder further what all this has to do with paying a Living Wage. Well just like any other business we have a myriad of professionals working with us, from cleaners to our CEO. 

I first met with the Living Wage Foundation back in 2011 and started to learn more about the issues and challenges facing those who are not earning a wage that reflected living costs. I began to question our own employees and those who regularly work on our sites. To be honest it wasn't something I had considered before; I had assumed that the government national minimum wage took all that into account and everything was hunky-dory. However the research from Loughborough University on the Minimum Income Standards and the work of Living Wage Foundation was compelling, it was a no brainer – absolutely the right and fair thing to do to pay a real Living Wage.

We were an early adopter, becoming accredited as a Living Wage Employer in 2012 joining over 90 employers including Boris (the Mayor at the time), who made this public commitment at City Hall.

Over the Summer we reflected back on the last seven years and spoke to some of the employees from our onsite contractors, Thames Cleaning and Baxter Storey, to understand what earning a Living Wage means to them. Although they work for separate companies they are part of the Herbert Smith Freehills family, we interact them with daily, party with them at Christmas and see them very much as one of us.

All those we spoke with said that working at a site that was an accredited Living Wage employer gives them a better quality of life compared to their friends and family who are not paid the real Living Wage. They commented on friends working for different companies often work longer hours and will have a second job in order to earn the same monthly salary. Those with families said how this dramatically reduces the amount of time they can spend with loved ones.

Luis, a morning and day-working supervisor who has been working at the firm for over six years and is employed by Thames Cleaning said: "Earning a real Living Wage means [a] better quality of life, motivation and more time with family (less time working)."

Maritza from Columbia is a Day Janitor who has been working at the firm for seven years said: "I feel more valued at work, because by the client choosing to pay the London Living Wage it indicates that my role within the firm is important and recognised by vouching to pay a higher rate compared to the national minimum wage".

Carlos Cuevas the onsite Cleaning & Porterage Manager from Thames Cleaning, added that: "paying the real Living Wage means a higher calibre of workers apply for the jobs, creating a dynamic and work-focussed environment".

We also spoke to Jamie Taylor, the onsite General Catering Manager from Baxter Storey who said: "From a managerial perspective, recruiting high quality employees is easier, as the higher hourly rate attracts people with better training and experience. It helps me to retain our staff and to attract the right people."

During Living Wage week we will be hosting information stands for our people to learn more about the Living Wage. We will also be holding an afternoon tea for our catering and cleaning teams to celebrate (and eat cake). 

There are a little over 130 legal organisations accredited as Living Wage employers, this ranges from the large Magic Circle firms, small barrister chambers and law societies. However this is just the tip of the legal market iceberg. I call on all those in the legal sector not already paying all their own employees and those working regularly onsite a living wage to respond.

 

Luis

Luis, a morning and day-working supervisor who has been working at the firm for over six years and is employed by Thames Cleaning said: "Earning a real Living Wage means [a] better quality of life, motivation and more time with family (less time working)."

 

 

Martiza

Maritza from Columbia is a Day Janitor who has been working at the firm for seven years said: "I feel more valued at work, because by the client choosing to pay the London Living Wage it indicates that my role within the firm is important and recognised by vouching to pay a higher rate compared to the national minimum wage".

Carlos Cuevas the onsite Cleaning & Porterage Manager from Thames Cleaning, added that: "paying the real Living Wage means a higher calibre of workers apply for the jobs, creating a dynamic and work-focussed environment".

Jamie

We also spoke to Jamie Taylor, the onsite General Catering Manager from Baxter Storey who said: "From a managerial perspective, recruiting high quality employees is easier, as the higher hourly rate attracts people with better training and experience. It helps me to retain our staff and to attract the right people."

 

During Living Wage week we will be hosting information stands for our people to learn more about the Living Wage. We will also be holding an afternoon tea for our catering and cleaning teams to celebrate (and eat cake). 

 

There are a little over 130 legal organisations accredited as Living Wage employers, this ranges from the large Magic Circle firms, small barrister chambers and law societies. However this is just the tip of the legal market iceberg. I call on all those in the legal sector not already paying all their own employees and those working regularly onsite a living wage to respond.

 

14th November 2019, 10:00
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