Living Hours is the other side of the Living Wage coin

The Living Wage movement is a remarkable phenomenon. What began as a civil society movement campaigning for decent wages has grown into a movement of over 5,000 employers with one big value in common: that the people who work for them should earn enough to live a decent life. Each accredited Living Wage employer who signs up does so, not because they have to, but because it’s the right thing to do and they want to do it.

Paying the real Living Wage is the most important step an employer can take to alleviate in-work poverty. But there is another side of the coin: the number of hours worked and the security of those hours. The amount of pay employees take home can be affected by irregular and unpredictable hours.

That’s why this brand-new campaign to create an employer culture of Living Hours is so exciting. It will be led by our HR Director John Stewart and is based on the simple and universal truth that human beings seek a decent life. Knowing how much you will earn helps ends to meet, knowing when you will work enables a family life with commitments and activities that lead to fulfilment and happiness.

As a business we have been an enthusiastic champion of the real Living Wage and, now, Living Hours too. A company like SSE, a large UK headquartered energy company with trade union recognition, is not the sort of company or industry where the worst employment practices will take place. When we became a Living Wage employer, most employees already earned above the Living Wage. The same will apply here, most employees are on regular contracts. But, as we discovered last time, there will be some who will benefit from the new Living Hours standards. Where we can make the greatest difference, however, is in our supply chain.

If big organisations like ours stand up and say: we expect people working regularly on our sites to earn a decent pay and to be given the respect of regular hours and decent notice of shift patterns, then it makes it easier for those in the service sector to do it too.

In the long-run, it is in all our interests that our workplaces and communities are filled with people who are treated with respect and can earn enough for a good life. That’s why a growing movement of employers signing up to a combination of the real Living Wage and Living Hours has the potential to make such a difference to our communities and our economy.

About the author

Rachel McEwen Chief Sustainability Officer

Rachel joined SSE in 2007 and, as Chief Sustainability Officer, is responsible for its sustainability strategy, climate change policy, community funds and corporate heritage. She is a non-Executive Director of Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, the SSE subsidiary that owns and operates the electricity distribution and transmission networks in the north of Scotland. External to SSE, Rachel was Chair of the Leadership Group of Living Wage Scotland between 2014 and 2018 is a member of the Scottish Government’s Just Transition Commission and a member of the Fair Tax Mark Board.

Read more articles by Rachel McEwen