What is it about?

This article considers the implementation of the voluntary living wage in four large local authorities the UK. It finds that the living wage is good news for workers (many of whom are women in historically low paying roles such as cleaning and catering) who saw wage increases of up to 20%. However, there are a number of practical considerations for organisations when adopting the living wage. For example restoring wage differentials for more senior staff can be expensive, and accreditation with the Living Wage Foundation is important to ensure that wage gains are shared along the supply chain.

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Why is it important?

As organisations increasingly turn to living wages for business or ethical reasons, the process of implementation is often overlooked and this article seeks to contribute to both a deeper theoretical and practical understanding of living wages in 'the real world'. Furthermore, the findings point to ongoing tensions within the trade unions about the gains to be made from localised living wage policies set againtst the continued weakening of collective bargaining to protect low earners.

Perspectives

This article seeks to bridge a gap between the rhetoric and reality of living wage policies. It forms part of a wider literature that uses both qualitative and quantitative data across sectors and countries to help refine our thinking about both the power and limitations of living wages as a solution to inequality and low pay.

Mathew Johnson
University of Manchester

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This page is a summary of: Implementing the living wage in UK local government, Employee Relations, October 2017, Emerald, DOI: 10.1108/er-02-2017-0039.
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