On Wednesday 4th November as part of Living Wage Week 2015, Indigo Herbs is attending an event in the Houses of Parliament to support the Living Wage Foundation. This is an opportunity for Living Wage employers to talk to MPs about fairer pay. As you might know, Indigo Herbs has been an official Living Wage Employer for a number of years (we've always actually paid at least Living Wage). What you may not know is why Indigo Herbs joined with the Living Wage Foundation in the first place and why we're going to Parliament.
Success can create positive social change
Right from the very beginning, the directors of Indigo Herbs have always believed in the importance of treating everyone we work with fairly and well (including each other). We've long seen our own success and the success of Indigo Herb's mission as a function of the success and happiness of everyone involved in our business. This most definately includes all our staff as well as customers and suppliers. However, we have also always believed that we have a responsibility to create the society we want to live in and that successful businesses can be a force for positive social change. It was with this in mind that Indigo Herbs became an official Living Wage Employer. We hoped that by using the Living Wage logo on our website and especially our job adverts, we would help start this conversation and raise expectations around pay.
Being a Living Wage Employer has turned out to have various benefits to Indigo Herbs as an employer. Indigo Herbs is very much a team, we have a relatively informal hierarchy and like to credit everyone for our success. However it would be easy to be 'all talk and no action' and being an official Living Wage employer underlines our commitment to our staff to respect and value them for their hard work in every area. Then there's those job adverts. There's no doubt that offering a decent wage is in itself a magnet for better candidates. However we have evidence to suggest that some people see moving to a Living Wage company as a career advantage even if it means no real pay rise. Working for a Living Wage employer means working for someone who values employees and is therefore more likely to be pro-active in developing talent. For Indigo Herbs, being a Living Wage employer is a massive win-win. This could work for all businesses.
And then there's the visit to Parliament. We're certainly excited to have been invited to talk to MPs of all parties about the Living Wage. Its our opportunity to make a stand and advocate for a better paid workforce in this country. After all, how can a business claim to be an economic success if some employees are paid an hourly rate that means they can't afford the cost of living? This is not good economics, and and as responsible business owners we want to take this conversation to our MP's and in that way push for a fairer society.
But, has being a Living Wage employer for the last 2 years really made any difference outside of Indigo Herbs?
A Fairer Society
We know anecdotally from discussions in interviews to conversations in the pub that Indigo Herb's stance has gone some way, in raising awareness at least, of issues around pay and conditions in our community. But in case you have not received the benefit of this type of thinking, consider this. An organisation that pays anyone less than the Living Wage (was £7.85, £8.25 as of 2nd November) and is in profit, however big or small, is effectively paying staff less than they need to live on and pocketing the difference. This is grossly unfair. And consider for a moment that such employees are likely to be depending on tax credits so any organisation that acts in this way is effectively lining their owners / shareholders pockets with tax payer's money.
And the situation is even worse for some. Unfortunately there are some organisations, who employ regular staff but insist that they invoice for their time rather than provide a proper employment contract. Staff in this situation are not just being short changed, they are potentially being exploited even more. The reason for this is simple, anyone who works a regular number of hours and has an employment contract (as is required by law) will also receive paid holidays, sick pay, maternity or paternity pay, and as of next year a contribution to their pension. They also have the right to request flexible working, time off for dependants, and to not be dismissed unfairly. These are rights that have been fought for by brave people over many years. Holiday pay and the minimum pension contribution alone are worth 13.5% on top of the hourly rate, so anyone invoicing for less than £9.36 per hour is effectively earning less than the Living Wage. Anyone invoicing less than £7.60 (£8.18 next April) per hour is effectively earning less than minimum wage and they can be easily abandoned when they fall ill or pregnant and dismissed with no notice for no reason at all.
Be the change
So if you're reading this and you are properly employed (with a proper contract) for less than £8.25 per hour, ask your boss why it's OK for you to be paid less than you need to live on whilst they walk away with the profit of your labour. If you are a business owner or shareholder who employ anyone on less that £8.25, I seriously recommend adopting living wage. Not only will you be acting more fairly, you will be joining in a positive social movement and you will reap the wider benefits of being a Living Wage employer as we have at Indigo Herbs.
If you are are unfortunate enough to be invoicing your employer (and you have regular work with them) then you should have a contract of employment with the rights that come with that. You need to consider challenging your employer and if necessary (which it might well be) organise with your fellow workers and talk to ACAS www.acas.org.uk – who offer help & advice for employers & employees. Invoicing as self-employed might seem glamorous but unless you are getting a really decent rate you are being exploited.
And if you are a business that has this arrangement with regular staff consider doing the right thing and becoming the employer you'd like to work for.
Living Wage Week
Living Wage Week takes place each year during the first week of November, the week is a UK-wide celebration of the Living Wage and Living Wage Employers, this year Living Wage Week begins on Sunday 1st November and runs to Saturday 7th.
It is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the Living Wage and the Living Wage Employer Mark, the week sees accredited Living Wage Employers across the country celebrate their commitment to the Living Wage. The Living Wage Foundation holds events, organises media activities and shares new research about the impact of low pay. The new UK and London Living Wage rates are announced every year during the week.
Visit The Living Wage Foundation to find out more