Better wages for women

05 April 2018

The difference between the national minimum wage and the real Living Wage can mean the difference between having enough money to feed your family or being pushed into food-poverty.

For many, it is the difference between surviving and living, and it remains a prevalent issue. 

Since 2001, the real Living Wage has meant that £613million in extra wages has gone to low-paid workers.

Despite that, millions of working women still face financial insecurity, according to new research conducted by the Living Wage Foundation and the Fawcett Society for International Women’s Day.

A poll of women earning below the real Living Wage, conducted by Survation on behalf of the Living Wage Foundation, found that 61% of women being paid below the real Living Wage have savings of less than a month.

The real Living Wage is a voluntary rate set to account for the cost of living in the UK and London respectively, unlike the government minimum wage. The Living Wage rate is currently £10.20 an hour in London, and £8.75 outside of London.

Tess Lanning, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, has called on more businesses and organisations to voluntarily choose to pay the real Living Wage based on the real cost of living.

She said: "The precariousness of life for women earning little more than the government minimum shows the need for more employers to take a stand by paying the real Living Wage based on what people need to make ends meet.

“Our research shows that debt and financial insecurity is widespread for low paid women, with many struggling to save for a rainy day."

The poll also found that nearly all women (94%) surveyed worry about their financial situation, with more than half (66%) not seeing their financial situation improving within a year. If their bills were increased, nearly half (49%) would cut down on food and 41% would cut down on heating.

Jemima Olchawski, Head of Policy and Insight at the Fawcett Society, believes that recruiters and employers need to do more to support women in the workplace. 

She said: “Women are much more likely to be in low paid work. Often that might be because they need flexibility or part-time work to meet caring responsibilities that they just can’t find in better paid roles. It’s also because society undervalues women and the work they do; jobs dominated by women such as caring roles are consistently amongst the lowest paid.

“Employers can help lift their staff out of poverty and close the gender pay gap by paying the real Living Wage. To maximise the talent available to them, recruiters should make all jobs flexible by default, so a wider range of people can progress at work. We’d urge larger employers to take the opportunity of pay gap reporting to look closely at the nature and causes of the gap in their organisation and make an action plan to close it.”

Another recent report, Low Pay in the Charity Sector, by the Living Wage Foundation, found that 30.4% of females in the charity sector earn less than the Living Wage, compared to 21% of males.

Overall, it found that more than a quarter of charity workers are not paid enough to live off.

Being a Living Wage employer is not just good for employee health. It is good for the charity too. A major contributor to the new report is Cardiff University’s Business School, whose research shows that employers feel there are reputational benefits from being a Living Wage employer; helping with recruitment and retention and securing contracts. When it comes to challenges resulting from Living Wage accreditation, researchers found that most employers do not report any significant negative effects.

Since 2012, People’s Health Trust has supported the Living Wage Foundation on a campaign which is part of a systematic way to eradicate low pay.

As well as being a Living Wage Employer, the Trust is also a Principal Partner, and in 2015, People’s Health Trust, working with Living Wage Foundation and a group of funders created the Living Wage Friendly Funder scheme, to help end low pay in the Voluntary and Community Sector.

There are now 35 Friendly Funders, including Comic Relief and Big Lottery Fund and local authorities such as London Boroughs of Islington and Brent.

There is still a long way to go, to tackle the injustice of low pay that affects millions. The Trust believes that those who can, should follow the example of thousands of employers who are tackling social injustice head-on and reward a hard day’s work with a fair day’s pay.


People's Health Trust has been shortlisted for a Living Wage Champion Award for showing leadership on the Living Wage campaign through grant-making. To find out more, click here.  

To read more news from the Trust, click here

To find out more about the Living Wage Foundation, click here


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