Guest post by David Van der Velde, MD of Consult and Design International.
Consult and Design recently joined hundreds of other employers in pledging to pay a living wage to all our staff, see www.livingwage.org.uk/employers. This is a really positive move for our business, for our staff, for our clients and for society at large. I am encouraging all North East businesses to join us and other Living Wage employers such as PWC, Barclays, many Local Authorites and even some Universities. Below are my thoughts on what the living wage means for us.
Why are we a Living Wage employer?
Consult and Design is a knowledge-based business, investing heavily in the skills of our workforce. We know the value of bringing good people into the business, keeping them and developing them. When staff are treated well they put their whole selves into the job. By treating our staff well, we attract talented and creative people who are constantly finding new ways to improve what we do and the way do it.
Staff who feel valued and respected are more likely to go the extra mile to provide a good service to our clients and make sure that the work they produce is of the highest quality.
How have we changed the way we work to meet the living wage standard?
This has been relatively straight-forward for us as a knowledge based businesses, where investment in staff is the norm and retention of trained staff a priority. For businesses employing a large proportion of unskilled, minimum wage staff the culture change would probably need to be a bit more radical.
The social impact of low pay
For us, a key reason for paying the living wage lies in the impact this has on the communities in which we live, work and do business.
At Consult and Design we work with a lot of voluntary sector organisations some of whom support disadvantaged children, families and communities. We see the impact that low pay and the associated job insecurity often has on health, child poverty and debt in communities. So, we wanted to make a statement about our principles, and 'put our money where our mouth is'.
So should government act and how?
These days, everyone would agree that it makes sense for governments to intervene to prevent business from polluting the environment because of the negative impact on communities and the cost to the public sector of cleaning up. In the same way, I think it makes sense for government to take account of the effect in communities of low pay and the cost of dealing with the social problems they cause further down the line.
At Consult and Design our experience of recruiting staff has meant investing heavily in their skills, putting in time to train staff and pay their wages while they learn. We have benefitted from subsidies to recruit young people, which have offset some of these costs and enabled us to create permanent well-paid jobs for the young people we recruit.
If we can recognise the benefit to the public purse of creating well paid jobs and training staff, then there ought to be a mechanism for supporting and rewarding this activity.
David Van der Velde, Managing Director of Web Development Company, Consult and Design International.