Living Wage: Wales can’t afford to undervalue its workforce

News from wales stock image of Cardiff Bay

At the launch of Living Wage Week in Wales this week, the First Minister Mark Drakeford announced the new Living Wage hourly rate for 2020 (£9.30, up by 30p), and that Cardiff has become the first capital city in the UK to be awarded ‘Living Wage City’ status.

Chris Nott is a founding member and senior partner of Cardiff based law firm, Capital Law (www.capital-law.co.uk). He spoke at the launch event. Capital are members of the ‘Living Wage leadership’ and ‘Cardiff as a Living Wage City’ groups, and have been working with Cardiff Council and other employers in the region to help the city achieve this status.

Here Chris Nott explains why investing in our workforce is our best chance to retain talent and attract growth.

Wales is confronted with stubborn levels of poverty, and recent years have seen a worrying rise of in-work poverty, with many men, and even more women in low-paid, part-time or temporary work struggling to make ends meet. It is unacceptable that even people in full time work find themselves in this situation.

Paying the Living Wage should be common sense, especially as low-income families fear the impact of a hard Brexit on the day-to-day cost of living. But the Living Wage isn’t just a human right to living in dignity, it’s also good for business.

What successful businesses have in common is happy, collegiate committed workforces, who enjoy coming to work. People want to work for organisations that care about the people within them, help them reach their potential and thrive. The starting point for this is to pay them properly. Being a responsible employer means being responsive to your employees’ aspirations, as well as their financial needs.

Cardiff has repeatedly been voted among the best cities to live in the UK, and in the EU, thanks to its high quality of life. These rankings consider the cost of living, but also employment opportunities, public services and facilities, green spaces etc. People are attracted to our capital city, not because it’s cheap, but because it’s good value for money.

The same applies to businesses. There are financial benefits associated with running a business from Wales, starting with the comparatively cheap office rental costs. This is how we offer our clients the same quality of work as Magic circle and City firms, at a better price, without sacrificing anyone’s salary.

Low prices don’t justify low wages: the money we don’t spend on rent, we must invest in our people. Cutting on salary is cutting on quality, and strategically, Wales can’t afford to undervalue its workforce if it wants to attract inward investors and foreign capital.

As members of the ‘Living Wage leadership’ and ‘Cardiff as a Living Wage City’ groups, over the past three years we’ve been working closely with Cardiff council and other prominent employers in the region to champion this vision, understand the local low pay challenges, and set out a plan to address them. Now that Cardiff has officially been awarded ‘Living Wage City’ status, I look forward to seeing the number of companies paying the living wage continue to increase, in the capital and beyond. It’s a marginal difference for employers, that can have big benefits for their employees and business alike.

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