Archbishop of York launches Living Wage Commission


The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, is to chair a new, independent Commission on the future of the Living Wage (1).

Bringing together leading figures from business, trade unions and civil society (2), Commissioners will investigate what potential the increasingly popular concept of a Living Wage holds for Britain's five million low paid workers (3). The findings of the 12 month- long Commission are poised to shape party manifestos for the 2015 General Election, with both David Cameron and Ed Miliband previously voicing their support for the principle of the Living Wage (4).

The Living Wage - a wage rate set to ensure a basic but acceptable standard of living - has gained increasing prominence in policy circles over the past decade. Paying staff at least the London Living Wage rate of £8.55 per hour and £7.45 outside of London (5)  promises to reduce what many see as a state subsidy to businesses who don't pay their employees enough to live on.

  • Approximately £4bn is currently spent each year by Government on in-work support for low earners.
  • Research has indicated the Living Wage could save the public purse £2 billion a year and boost nationwide income by £6.5bn a year. (6)

However, since the idea of the Living Wage was resurrected in the early 2000s, few companies have yet adopted it. The Living Wage Foundation's excellent campaigns have driven the idea into mainstream policy debates. Yet so far only 45,000 workers have had their pay cheque boosted as a result (6). The Archbishop of York will chair an investigation into the potential of the Living Wage, barriers to its implementation and how they could be overcome. The Commission will announce its final recommendations in Summer 2014.  

Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Chair of the Living Wage Commission, said:

"Right now, millions of people are not receiving a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. The scale of low pay in the UK is a national scandal. Around five million people, the majority of them women, aren't paid a wage high enough to provide a basic but acceptable standard of living. In too many workplaces, the basic moral imperative that workers be paid enough to live on has been lost in the pursuit of profit.  

"The Living Wage offers us hope. It is a simple idea with profound implications for the lives of millions. Yet for too many people, the notion of being paid enough to live on remains an abstract concept. I am honoured to be chairing a Commission that will investigate how to build a strong future by paying the Living Wage to workers and, in so doing, build a fair and just society."

Adam Marshall, Director of Policy & External Affairs at the British Chambers of Commerce and a member of the Living Wage Commission, said:

“The Living Wage debate elicits a variety of reactions from businesses across the UK, from the very sceptical to the very supportive. I am pleased to be joining the Living Wage Commission in order to represent the views of British businesses, and to work with commissioners from all walks of life on solutions to the difficult issues that wage debates often raise.”

Frances O'Grady, General Secretary of the TUC and a member of the Living Wage Commission, said:

“All the evidence is that paying the living wage helps boost employee productivity and makes it much easier for firms to recruit and retain good staff. The extra pay in the pockets of low-paid workers would also help inject much-needed consumer demand back into our struggling economy. I hope the commission will prick the conscience of the nation, help banish poverty pay from the UK’s workforce and give the five million who don’t yet earn the living wage the dignity they deserve.”

About The Living Wage Commission

1) The Living Wage Commission is a an independent investigation into the future of the Living Wage. Over the course of 12 months, Commissioners will research and assess the evidence on the value of the Living Wage, barriers to its implementation and how these could be overcome. 
The Commission was initiated by Compass, an organisations working to build a more equal, sustainable and democratic society: The Commission is supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

2) The Living Wage Commissioners appointed so far are:

  • Archbishop of York, John Sentamu (Chair)
  • Frances O'Grady, General Secretary, TUC
  • Adam Marshall, Director of Policy & External Affairs, British Chambers of Commerce
  • Victoria Winkler, Director, Bevan Foundation
  • Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive, NCVO
  • Kate Pickett, co-author, The Spirit Level; co-founder of the Equality Trust
  •  Guy Stallard, UK Head of Facilities, KPMG (personal capacity)

3) Five million people, 3 million of them women, are paid less than the Living Wage. 'Beyond the Bottom Line: The challenge and opportunities of a living wage', Resolution Foundation and IPPR, 2013.


4) Prior to the 2010 General Election, David Cameron described the Living Wage as a "good and attractive idea": ;

Ed Miliband describes the Living Wage as "an idea whose time has come":  


6) 'Beyond the Bottom Line: The challenge and opportunities of a living wage', Resolution Foundation and IPPR, 2013