Building support for the Living Wage in construction

Building support for the Living Wage in construction

Living Wage Week takes place 15 – 21 November 2021. In our guest blog, the Managing Director of George Leslie Ltd sets out why the civil engineering contractor has become the latest construction firm to become an official Living Wage Employer.

The real Living Wage is the only UK rate based on living costs. It is currently calculated at a minimum of £9.90 per hour – higher than the so-called National Living Wage which offers £9.50 per hour to workers aged 23 and above. An independent body of experts analyses the cost of living and the rate is recalculated every year in November to ensure the Living Wage keeps up with the everyday pressures and costs of family life. The new Living Wage rate was announced on 15 November 2021 to mark the beginning of Living Wage Week.

David Ross, Managing Director of George Leslie Ltd, writes about why his company recently took the decision to become an official Living Wage employer.

George Leslie started in 1964 as a family-run firm and even though the ownership has changed hands over the years we have tried hard to maintain that family ethos throughout the business. The wellbeing of our staff has always been important to us – we believe we have a duty of care to our teams – and part of that duty means making sure that they leave work at the end of the day with a fair wage.

We’re also committed to doing the right thing. Whether it’s the community benefits we deliver as part of construction projects or the thousands of pounds our employees have raised for charities in sponsored hikes and cycles, the drive to give something back is woven into the fabric of the business.

That’s one of the reasons why the decision to seek accreditation as an official Living Wage Employer was a no-brainer for us. Our senior management team sat down to consider what the accreditation process would involve and we thought that it was a positive step worth taking. In fact, it was relatively straightforward in our case because we were already compliant with most of the requirements. Civil engineering is, after all, a highly-skilled sector and that is reflected in the wages our workforce earns.

It’s also about encouraging more young people to enter the industry by busting the myth that construction jobs are low paid. We need to attract more people from all walks of life to fill a growing skills gap in construction so becoming an official Living Wage Employer sends a positive message that young people can earn a decent living with us. More than any other generation before them, today’s young people want not just a well-paid job but also a career which aligns with their values. Proudly supporting the Living Wage movement is an important way of demonstrating our commitment to building a fairer society.

Of course, we can only have a positive impact on society if our business is sustainable but the real Living Wage also makes good business sense. Scottish construction relies on the public sector for around 50% of its work and at George Leslie Ltd we deal with many local councils, Scottish Water and other public agencies.  Momentum has been building in recent years in Scotland for private companies  who are bidding for public sector work to show that they are good employers. And the Living Wage is likely to become even more of a deciding factor for clients in the future. It therefore made sense for us to get ahead of the game and make our support for the Living Wage official.