Why you should pay a living wage

By Natasha Fromont

SBN has joined the ranks of accredited Living Wage employers in New Zealand. It’s a step your organisation can take towards being fair on the people who work for you, while doing their bit for a fairer New Zealand.

The Living Wage has emerged as a response to growing poverty and inequality. These issues continue to hold back many Kiwi workers, their families and our economy. The Living Wage concept is a very simple, yet such a powerful alternative. It’s the hourly wage a worker needs to pay for the necessities of life and participate as an active citizen in their community. It reflects the basic expenses of workers and their families. This includes food, transportation, housing and childcare. It is calculated independently each year by the New Zealand Family Centre Social Policy Unit. The Living Wage rate is voluntary. The current Living Wage is $20.20 per hour, $4.45 more than the minimum wage set by the Government.

To become an accredited Living Wage employer, an organisation must pay all its employees at least the minimum wage. They must also demonstrate that all contractors or service companies for that business are paying the Living Wage or have an agreed plan to be doing so in the near future.

Rachel Brown is SBN’s CEO.

“For us it’s an important principle. If we are going to have the kind of equitable, sustainable society we all want to live in then it’s vital to ensure working people are being paid enough to make a proper living.

“It wasn’t a major cost as we were paying above the required level to our staff already. But it was interesting talking this through with our cleaning contractors and other service providers to make sure this was the case there too.”

Other SBN members accredited as Living Wage employers include Karma Cola, Oxfam New Zealand, Angel Food, Ethique, La Boca Loca and Bicycle Junction.

Felicia Scherrer is a Living Wage community organiser. She says: “Research shows paying a Living Wage has numerous benefits to the employer. These include reduced absenteeism and sick leave, increased staff retention, increased productivity and higher quality of worker output.

“It also enhances the profile of the organisation. You become part of network of like-minded organisations that feel strongly about ensuring their employees are able to live with dignity and participate actively in society.”