Putting Our Money Where Our Collective Mouth Is
Why we signed up as a Living Wage employer.
When Steve and I set Bengo up nearly six years ago, one of the things we said from the off was that no matter what, we always wanted to treat our team really well. And that all started with paying them fairly and on-time.
It’s completely daft that we had to spell those two details out. But, I had come from a work background where I knew plenty willing to string paying an invoice for as long as possible. Or ask you to do something for them because it would be ‘good for your CV / experience / exposure’ (pick your poison). Even as they then charged your services out.
So to us, paying people fairly and on time was, and still is, just the right thing to do. It’s something we’ve stuck to our guns on throughout. Even if clients sometimes drag their feet paying us, our freelancers, and now, gulp, staff, always get paid. Pronto.
We’ve never bragged about it (obviously until now!). And, if nothing else, we just figured keeping to these two principles would also build us some goodwill within the industry. Maybe even stand us out from the rest so that, given a choice, people would actually choose to work with us over someone else.
The Living Wage Foundation
Fast forward to the very recent past, we found ourselves applying for a couple of contracts that specified adherence to the Living Wage Foundation’s Living Wage . (Different to the national living wage, I’ve subsequently discovered, which is a cheeky governmental re-brand of the minimum wage.)
Cue panic and scramble – what on earth is that??? Turns out the Living Wage is actually the minimum amount of money that someone needs to get by. £10.90 an hour across the UK, £11.95 in London.
It’s reached by an independent panel, and calculated annually using real world expenses. It’s almost always more than the government national living wage. And, unlike the minimum wage, also acknowledges that it’s more expensive to live and work in London (who knew?!!).
It commits companies to treating their staff and freelancers the same. It also gets rid of the nonsense that if you’re under 23 and performing the same job as someone over 23, that you should be paid less. A bonkers scenario which is a topic for another one of my soapboxes some other time.
And, it also commits companies to raise wages each year in line with the new Living Wage calculation so that no-one’s pay packet loses its actual purchasing power.
Well. How pleased was I to do some digging and find that Bengo already met, and exceeded, all of the Living Wage Foundation’s requirements??! New shiny sticker in the mail for us!
Why it makes good (business) sense
But in all seriousness. Why does it matter? Because we couldn’t, in good conscience, ask those that work their socks off for us to give 100% if they are worrying about how to make ends meet. Or worse still, questioning whether they’d be better off working somewhere else entirely. A happy, healthy team generate amazing ideas. They are in the right headspace to deliver incredible work, which in turn keeps our clients happy and coming back for more.
The flip side of this though is that we’ll never be the cheapest kids on the block. But I’m ok with that. I’ll sleep (Bengo Junior permitting) better knowing that we’re not exploiting colleagues or in a race to the bottom with our competitors.
We also get to stand out. As only 1 in 10 of all employers nationwide who are putting their money where their mouth is. Showing that we genuinely value every single person that contributes to the team. But perhaps, more importantly for us, it actually helps us live up to the Bengo Values we created all those years ago. Especially this one:
“Naturally Nurturing: What goes around, comes around, so by treating, and continuously training, our colleagues well, they in turn will bring their A-game right to your door.”
And, who knows? The more of us that start wearing this emblem as a badge of honour across our public facing assets, maybe the more employers will be convinced into signing up. One, by one, by one.