Why HE institutions should pay the Living Wage

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Universities made an enormous contribution of £15 billion to the UK national economy last year, and produced 940,000 jobs in the process. Their role is gigantic, but low pay within the higher education sector is becoming worryingly prevalent up and down the country. This jeopardises their potential to be a force for good.

Higher education institutions are guided by the pursuit of excellence in their research and teachings, serving their students and the wider civil society. As part of this social function, they have a duty to lead by example as responsible employers. By ensuring that all their employees – however visible – are paid at or above the real Living Wage, universities and colleges can not only improve the wellbeing of their own workforce, but also encourage other significant employers in their area to do the same.

According to the Living Wage Foundation, 93% of Living Wage employers have seen a benefit as a result of becoming accredited, and more than half report improvements in recruitment into entry level roles (53%), staff retention (52%) and workplace relations between staff and managers (59%). Yet, the Foundation counted no more than 33 accredited universities last year – that’s only about 20% of all universities in the UK.

Fair pay can help you recruit and retain happy, committed people, able to be fully functional participants within their local communities free from the fear of poverty. It can also improve your reputation as a socially responsible institution.

If you would like further advice or guidance on how to become a Living Wage employer, please contact Richard Thomas (r.thomas@capitallaw.co.uk), who heads up our Employment team. We can help you update your existing policies and HR systems, draft variation of terms letters, review your contracts of employment and provide management and leadership training on what it means to be a responsible employer.