Economy

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Finally, the first Living Wage employer in Ad-Land

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The UK branch of the Ogilvy & Mather Group recently became the first major, global advertising giant to instigate a Living Wage policy amongst its employees. Becoming a living wage employer means that a company will pay all of their employees a minimum of £7.65 in the UK and £8.80 in London, where the cost of living is significantly higher. This contrasts quite heavily with the £6.50 minimum wage for adults aged 21 and over in the UK and £5.13 for those aged between 18 and 20. The WPP subsidiary will also require all suppliers to pay a living wage to their staff when the company moves to its new home at Sea Containers House on the South Bank in Autumn next year.

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Becoming a living wage employer means that a company will pay all of their employees a minimum of £7.65 in the UK and £8.80 in London

The Living Wage campaign was launched back in 2001 by East London parents who found that in order to earn a legitimate livelihood on minimum wage, they would need to work two or more jobs, leaving no time for family life. The foundation was launched in order to encourage employers to address working poverty by paying their employees a base salary that was enough for them not to have to take out a second job. Thus far more than 900 employers have stepped up to the plate, bringing an estimated 45,000 people out of poverty in the process. The foundation has support from across the political parties, with both David Cameron and Ed Miliband lending public backing to the campaign. London Mayor Boris Johnson is also set to announce a new living wage for London later today for 2014/2015.

Thus far more than 900 employers have stepped up to the plate, bringing an estimated 45,000 people out of poverty in the process

The living wage is set as an informal benchmark, not a legally enforceable minimum level of pay like the national minimum wage, which is set by the Low Pay Commission and the chancellor of the exchequer based on what they consider a realistic minimum wage. Of course, these officials are generally out of touch with the realities of working a minimum wage job, so the living wage, which is set by passionate individuals with one foot in the “Real world,” and is undated annually, is generally considered to be a fairer and more considered approach. According to the foundation, itself, they calculate the figure “According to the basic cost of living using the ‘Minimum Income Standard’ for the UK” and also take the opinions of the public on board. It's posited as a “Social consensus about what people (really) need to make ends meet.”

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The Living Wage is a robust calculation that reflects the real cost of living, rewarding a hard day’s work with a fair day’s pay.” Rhys Moore

Annette King, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather UK (pictured above), said they did a review towards the end of last year and found that whilst, “The majority” of their employers were paid above the living wage, they “Identified a few gaps amongst (their) youth talent, in particular interns and work placements.” She hopes the new policy will “Encourage a broad, diverse mix of people from all walks of life,” to consider working in the advertising industry, and feels that “Paying a ‘Living Wage’ is an important step towards this goal.” They are “Proud to be the first UK marketing communications company to gain accreditation,” a badge they will wear with pride. Rhys Moore, the Living Wage Foundation's director, said “The Living Wage is a robust calculation that reflects the real cost of living, rewarding a hard day’s work with a fair day’s pay.” He adds that “The best employers are voluntarily signing up now,” and welcomes “The leadership shown by Ogilvy & Mather Group UK on this important issue.”

Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and musician from Kidderminster in the UK who has far too many friends currently struggling to get by on minimum wage. He fully supports the Living Wage Foundation.

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