The Independent finds that not a single high street retailer will guarantee the living wage

Meanwhile a report by the CSJ finds that over a quarter of workers are stuck on low pay for five years or more


Today research carried out by the Independent reveals that not a single high street retail chain has guaranteed to pay its staff the living wage. Citizens UK, the charity that launched the living wage campaign, said that retailers need to consider their social responsibilities – they employ the biggest group of low-paid staff, and even chains which market themselves as ‘ethical’ like the Cooperative are not signed up to the living wage scheme.

The findings come as the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) calls on big firms to share their profits with workers. In a new report, the CSJ say that some businesses are taking advantage of the benefits system, paying below the living wage in the knowledge that the state will essentially top up the earnings of the low-paid with tax credits.

The CSJ emphasises the cyclical nature of low pay and how hard it can be to break out of, estimating that around a quarter of workers are stuck within 5p of the minimum wage for five years or more. It also finds that 4.3 million UK workers in the UK have skills and qualifications exceeding those needed for their job, and suggests that businesses have a responsibility to help their employers progress in their careers.

The report’s author David Skelton reminds us that:

“Low pay and poverty are often associated with a host of other social problems, including family breakdown, serious personal debt and an endless cycle of social and economic deprivation. These are all problems that prevent families and communities from realising their full potential.”

Skelton also recommends sizeable increases in the minimum wage, until there is evidence that this is harming employment and resulting in job losses. The CSJ say that:

“It’s accepted by most living wage campaigners that it is unaffordable for some firms and that making it statutory would cost around 160,000 jobs. It is right that there should be no push to making the living wage statutory, but there should be a greater push towards ensuring that those large employers who can pay the living wage do pay it.”

To this end, the report recommends that companies with an annual turnover of more than £100 million should be expected to state on company letterheads and other marketing documents whether or not they pay the living wage. It also calls on big companied to deliver an annual report into the measures they are taking to become living wage employers.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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