Research summary from Stuart Hill

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Who are you and how are you connected with the Brighton & Hove Living Wage campaign?
My name is Stuart Hill. I am a doctoral student at the University of Brighton. I am researching into the Brighton and Hove Living Wage because I am interested in knowing why employers choose to pay their staff the higher voluntary living wage when there is already a legal national minimum wage in our country. The Brighton and Hove Living Wage Campaign is of particular interest to me because it is has now been running for quite a long time – almost 6 years, it applies to a clearly defined geographical region – the City of Brighton and Hove, and because it is the only living wage campaign in the country that is run by a local Chamber of Commerce.

How many people have you spoken to during your research?
My research looks at and compares two specific sectors of the Brighton and Hove economy: adult social care and computer programming. I chose the adult social care sector because this is widely recognised as a low-paying industry across the UK. To contrast this, I chose the computer programming sector because this is typically regarded as a well-paid industry. Also, both sectors are experiencing growth and are considered vital to the Brighton and Hove economy. I interviewed ten local employers – nine of which were small-sized and one of which was medium-sized. Four employers were in the adult social care sector – of which two were signed up to the Brighton and Hove Living Wage, and six were in the computer programming sector – of which four were signed up to the Brighton and Hove Living Wage.

What were three major issues these businesses faced around employment?
All of the employers participating in my research identified recruitment as a major issue faced by their organisations when employing staff. Common across all of the employers was a difficulty or challenge to find the best or right type of person to be an employee. This typically meant a person who had the required skills, experience and attitude that would fit with their particular organisation. Employers from both sectors found staff retention a major issue. Adult social care employers found this was due to the transitory nature of the local population and the general reduction of people taking up care as a career. Computer programming employers found this was more about the competition they faced by the wages available in London. Adult social care employers also recognised their industry was typically known for being low paying but reported this was challenging to resolve because of the major funding issues currently being faced by the social care sector locally and across the country.

Did anything surprise you about these businesses’ approaches to pay setting?
Most of the employers did not have a fixed approach to pay setting. This made sense when they went on to explain that the smaller size of their businesses enabled them to have more informal approaches to setting pay. This also enabled them to retain control of their pay setting to one person or a small group of people and provided them with greater flexibility to vary individual pay should they want to or need to. In contrast, the larger employer reported their approach to pay setting was more standardised to ensure all their employees were treated similarly. This helped promote fairness throughout their large workforce where pay and pay setting might otherwise vary and become misaligned.

What did people have to say about the Brighton & Hove Living Wage?
Most of the employers who had signed up to the Brighton and Hove Living Wage said they had done so because they thought it was important and right thing to do. They also signed up because they thought it was in the interest of their employees to do so – particularly given the high cost of living in the city. Employers thought signing up to the Brighton and Hove Living Wage was in their interest too. Signing up helped them demonstrate their organisational values and commitments to current and prospective employees, benefited their public relations and helped lead the way in this ethical practice so others might follow. Most employers found their sign up had come at little or no cost to them as most of their employees were already paid above this higher minimum rate of pay.

Comments and enquires welcomed at s.hill4@brighton.ac.uk