Our Global Strategic Accounts CEO and co-chair of the Living Wage Foundation's Recognised Service Providers group, Karen Pleva, explains why Coronavirus (Covid-19) has demonstrated that our commitment to promoting the real Living Wage to clients is more important than ever.

This time last year, we never could have imagined that in 2020, the nation would take to their doorsteps to applaud not just NHS key workers, but the cleaners, caterers, porters and other facilities management professionals who were providing essential services in the fight against coronavirus.

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrust these once-behind-the-scenes roles into the spotlight. And it is right that they are getting the recognition and credit that they deserve. 

But these workers should not be recognised through applause alone. As we celebrate Living Wage Week (9-15), we must renew our energy and focus on working towards implementing the real Living Wage for these employees. 

This is a complex issue and the Living Wage Foundation recognises that it’s not always possible for service providers to implement the real Living Wage for their teams on all the contracts they deliver. 

That’s why the Recognised Service Provider Scheme was established; to help companies who operate in the lowest paid service sectors understand the importance and play a role in the ensuring a living wage for those they employ.

Sodexo became a Recognised Service Provider in 2015 and as such commits to paying head office staff the real Living Wage and including an alternative Living Wage bids alongside market rate bids to prospective and current clients. 

This commitment is also part of Sodexo’s Public Service Pledge since it was first published five years ago. Our pledge is our ethical manifesto and sets out how the company and its business operations have a positive social impact through our contracts and business conduct and includes a number of commitments and targets in areas such as living wage.

The real Living Wage is voluntary and is higher than the statutory National Living Wage. It is an hourly rate calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK, set independently and updated annually. The real Living Wage as of 9 November 2020, the start of Living Wage Week, is £9.50 per hour across the UK and £10.85 per hour in London. 

We know that the real Living Wage can have a huge impact on people’s lives. But it can also have a positive impact for businesses. Nearly 60% of businesses who pay the Living Wage say it improved relations between managers and staff, and it can help to recruit talent, with 93% of university students saying they want to work for Living Wage employers.  

In my role as co-chair of the Recognised Service Provider group, I am proud to work alongside colleagues from across the FM industry to collaborate and share ideas and best practice about approaches to being a Living Wage employer, and to encouraging our clients to implement the real Living Wage. 

We all rely and depend on armies of people who work tirelessly, and often invisibly, in our hospitals, schools, offices, transport systems, cafés, retail shops. This year we have quite rightly seen the awareness of what they do day in and day out increase considerably due to Covid-19. They are our hidden heroes and we need to do as much as we can to show our appreciation and continue to do all we can to make a difference.

There will always be more we can do to educate our clients and prospective clients about the importance of the Living Wage for employees. 

Living Wage Week is a chance for us to reflect on how we can inspire action to move towards a new normal that includes a living wage for all FM professionals.

November 06, 2020

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