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This Living Wage Week 2020, we reflect on the importance of everyone having the rights they need to flourish.

Over the last seven months COVID-19 has highlighted and exacerbated existing socio-economic inequalities. We believe the real Living Wage is key to building a fairer and more equal society, where everyone can flourish.

The real Living Wage is independently calculated based on what people need to live. The Living Wage covers everyday needs; the weekly shop, a school uniform or a surprise visit to the dentist.

On Monday 9th November the Living Wage Foundation announced the new rates of £9.50 across the UK and a slightly higher rate of £10.85 in London to reflect the higher cost of living in the capital.

The UK Government’s minimum wage, or so-called living wage for those over 25, is lower and isn’t based on the cost of living. Instead, it is calculated according to a target to reach 66% of median earnings by 2024. As a result, many workers earning the UK Government’s minimum (which is currently £8.20 for under 25s and £8.75 for those over 25) are struggling to keep their heads above water financially.

Almost 7,000 businesses are accredited with the Living Wage Foundation, ranging from household names like KPMG, Aviva, Everton FC and Brewdog to local authorities, charities and thousands of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) across the country. These organisations voluntarily pay above the UK Government minimum to ensure their directly employed and sub-contracted staff earn enough for a decent standard of living.

The commitment of accredited organisations has given a much-needed pay rise to over 250,000 workers across the country, putting over £1.3 billion back into the pockets of low-paid workers over the past 10 years and £200 million since the start of the 2020 lockdown.

Despite the success of the Living Wage movement to tackle low pay, there’s still more that can be done.

The 9th November report shows there are 5.5 million workers in the UK (20.3 per cent) who still don’t earn a real Living Wage.

Women (23.8%) are disproportionately impacted by low pay a than men (16.6%). Despite the gender gap for the lowest paid narrowing slightly over the last few years, 60% of below-Living-Wage jobs (3.3 million) were held by women in April 2020.

The real Living Wage guarantees the right to just and safe working conditions, and an adequate standard of living. These economic and social rights are a category of human rights which belong to all people in our country.

The UK Government voluntarily agreed to be legally bound by an international legal treaty which recognises these rights. This is called the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In accordance with this law, the UK Government should support employers in both the public and private sectors to implement measures which ensure everyone enjoys their economic and social rights.

In 2016, an independent monitoring body called the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, reviewed the UK Government’s compliance with its human rights obligations to ensure all people enjoy economic and social rights. The experts recommended that the UK sets a living wage at a level which provides all workers and their families with a decent standard of living.

Until politicians commit to those standards, organisations are encouraged to voluntarily go further than the minimum, pay the real Living Wage and accredit with the Living Wage Foundation

Just Fair is a charity which monitors and advocates for the enjoyment of economic and social rights in the UK. It works to ensure that UK Government law, policy and practice complies with obligations under international human rights law. For more information contact Just Fair’s Campaigns and Advocacy Lead, Misha Nayak-Oliver.

The Living Wage Foundation is the organisation at the heart of the independent movement of businesses and people that campaign for the idea that a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. We celebrate and recognise the leadership of responsible employers who choose to go further and pay a real Living Wage based on the cost of living, not just the government minimum.   For more information, contact the Living Wage Foundation’s Campaign Manager, Emily Roe.