normaaustinhartEdinburgh Councillor Norma Austin Hart reminds us that the Living Wage is good for the economy as well as being a huge positive for the low paid.


I was recently appointed as the chair of the Living Wage committee in City of Edinburgh Council. My job is to keep the Living Wage at the top of this administration’s priorities. The number of Living Wage Foundation employers in Scotland is increasing year on year as organisations realise it makes good business sense as well as demonstrating sound corporate social responsibility. There are 105 at last count, and congratulations to the Scottish Living Wage campaign on meeting and exceeding its targets.

Paying the Living Wage is an organisation’s public commitment to its core values.

In the City of Edinburgh Council we pay our own staff the Living Wage. Most local authorities in Scotland pay the Living Wage to their staff and they set a good example. But only one council, Falkirk, is a Living Wage Employer. The problem is with the interpretation of the European Union rules on competition. While lawyers disagree and we wait for Scottish Government to issue guidance, City of Edinburgh Council will push ahead with a pilot to test how far we can go.

The pilot is likely to be a big contract for social care and we anticipate negotiations will start within three months. The Living Wage committee will test the cautious legal interpretation by taking a leaf out of the books of Falkirk Council, Islington Borough Council and Transport for London. All of these LW employers have found a way to overcome the legal obstacles.

At the launch of the new Scottish Living Wage research.
At the launch of the new Scottish Living Wage research.

In the meantime I was delighted to be invited by KPMG to the launch of the latest Scottish research into the Living Wage. This has been funded by Barclays and produced by University of Strathclyde academics Andrea Coulson and James Bonner and is titled The Living Wage: evidence of UK business cases. The report is based on six case studies of six very different businesses, all LW Employers. It has these conclusions:

  • The impact of the Living Wage can be measured not just in the wage rate but by other benefits such as lower staff turnover and absenteeism
  • All businesses are concerned with costs and a way of mitigating increased costs has to be considered
  • Organisations looking at becoming LW employers will create a business case which values additional value creation for example in increasing their brand value and reputation in the marketplace
  • The Living wage can be adopted from day one ( like Penrose Social Care) or introduced as part of a change management programme
  • There is evidence of increasing awareness of LW accreditation in service providers and contractors and this leads to increased expectations
  • The research provides excellent examples of how the LW adds value and helps organisations deliver not only improved products and services but also delivers benefits to staff and improves business performance.

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