Merton Council becomes a Living Wage Employer

We are delighted to announce that we have become a Living Wage accredited employer. This means that as well as paying all our employees and agency workers at least the London Living Wage (LLW) – something we’ve been doing since 2013 – we’ve put a plan in place to ensure all our contractors are also paid at least the LLW or the Real Living Wage (RLW) if the work is carried out outside of London.

The LLW, which currently stands at £11.95 per hour, is independently set by the Resolution Foundation, who have their work overseen by the Living Wage Commission. These calculations are based off of the real-life costs that we all face in order to come up with the figure that’s required to meet everyday needs. By comparison, the Government’s legally enforced National Living Wage is only £9.50 for everyone aged 23 and over, and that goes down to £9.18 for 21–22-year-olds, and £6.83 for those aged 18-20.

In order to ensure our contractors are paying  the LLW, or the RLW where appropriate, we’ve set aside £7.2 million over the next five years to update our contracts with them when they come up for renewal. This will mean extra money in the pockets of staff including cleaners, security officers and catering workers who work indirectly for the council.

In the coming months, we will be reaching out to local businesses to encourage them to join us in becoming a Living Wage accredited employer. The current cost-of-living emergency has made it clearer than ever that employees in Merton – especially the lowest paid – need their wages to keep up with the rising costs in their lives. That’s why we are working on some incentives to help local companies to do the right thing.

Councillor Ross Garrod, Leader of Merton Council, said: “During this cost-of-living emergency, I am proud that we have been at the forefront in supporting our residents. Setting up a £2 million cost of living support fund focussed on crisis support, debt advice and putting money back in the pockets of the borough’s lowest earning residents.

“The rising cost of living is also big issue for our employees – many of whom live in the borough. So, I am delighted that we’ve achieved Living Wage accreditation.

”Although we have been paying the London Living Wage to all our employees and agency workers since 2013 this was not the case for all of our contractors. So, one of my priorities since becoming leader was to put in place a plan for accreditation.”

Councillor Billy Hayes, Merton Council’s Living Wage Champion, said: “It’s great news that we’re now officially a Living Wage employer, but our mission to end low pay doesn’t stop at the doors of the Civic Centre – we want to make Merton a London Living Wage borough.

“There are still 16,000 employees in the borough who are paid less than the London Living Wage, and we want to work with their employers to increase their pay packets. Times are tough for both employees and employers, so we want to do what we can to make this an easy decision. Where we can support local businesses who choose to do the right thing by their staff, we will.”

Katherine Chapman, Director, Living Wage Foundation said: “We’re delighted that Merton Council have joined the movement of almost 12,000 responsible employers across the UK who voluntarily commit to go further than the government minimum to make sure their staff all earn enough to live on. The real Living Wage is the only wage rate based on what it costs to meet every day needs such as the weekly shop or a surprise trip to the dentist. Over 450,000 employees have received a pay rise as a result of the Living Wage campaign, which represents thousands of pounds more than the minimum wage each year. Though we are facing unprecedented challenges with the cost of living crisis, it’s encouraging to see employers like Merton Council continue to step up and support workers at a time when a wage that can cover the cost of living has never been more important.’

Merton Citizens, a grass-roots alliance of 14 local organisations working together to make Merton a better place to live and work, has been championing the Living Wage for years. Their organiser, Vitória Russo Gaino, said: “After hearing story after story of our communities being ‘priced-out’ of their neighborhoods and homes, we received the news of the council’s Living Wage accreditation with real joy. This will be a meaningful step in uplifting our communities in Merton. We are looking forward to continuing to work with the council to take this work further and encourage other local employers to accredit as well.”