Author: Martin Buttle, better world lead at CCLA
With the highest rates of inflation in decades and a collapse in the pound's value, the UK is facing a cost-of-living crisis that will affect millions of working people across the UK.
The crisis has a disproportionate impact on low-wage households, who spend a larger proportion of their income on fuel and food. According to the Living Wage Foundation ‘Life on Low Pay’ report, there are currently an estimated 4.8m workers earning a wage below the cost of living. 42% of such workers report missing meals regularly due to financial reasons, and 56% report using food banks regularly. During the winter months, many of these workers are facing bleak choices such as whether to ‘heat or eat’.
Why is it important to address the cost-of-living crisis?
We understand that the cost-of-living crisis is having a huge impact on the mental health of workers, which is already estimated to have cost the UK private sector between £53-56bn in 2020-21. Workers under financial pressure are unlikely to perform at their best, and businesses are likely to face reduced productivity, higher turnover and increased training costs.
The government has a primary role in ensuring that people are protected, and they have introduced measures in response to rising energy costs. While these measures (to cap energy prices to £2,500 for a typical household) will make a difference, it should be noted that this is double what the average household bill was in 2020.
Businesses and specifically the largest publicly listed employers, can play an essential role in shielding their lower-paid workforce from the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis.
What are we doing?
For this reason, CCLA and the Church Investors Group have written to the largest publicly listed employers about their response and specifically asking them:
- Whether they have taken any steps to support their lowest-paid employees through this winter, or if they have any plans to be implemented over the next few weeks?
- What proportion of their workforce will be impacted by these activities, and how were they selected for assistance?
- Whether the third-party contracted staff whose principal place of work is one of your premises (such as cleaners, caterers and security guards) eligible for assistance through any ‘cost-of-living’ programme that they offer?
- If they have no plans, why are they not acting on this issue?
We will be summarising their responses on the website. Our intention for this engagement is to encourage large employers to respond and to showcase how businesses are already addressing the challenges of the cost-of-living crisis.