Alliance of key local employers launches plan to make Norwich a Living Wage CIty amid rising cost of living

A coalition of local businesses, charities and public sector organisations today launched a plan to substantially increase the number of accredited Living Wage Employers in Norwich.

The ‘Making Norwich a Living Wage City’ Action Group has today been recognised by the Living Wage Foundation. Their plan will see employers encouraged to pay the real Living Wage and become
Living Wage Employers, ensuring all employees are paid what they need to get by.

The Norwich Living Wage City Action Group, which developed the plan, is an alliance of some of the city’s major businesses and institutions, all of whom are Living Wage Employers, including: Norwich City Council, Aviva, City College Norwich, Future Projects, and Broadland Housing Association.

There are currently 58 Real Living Wage accredited employers in Norwich, meaning 1,114 workers have already received a pay rise that meets the real Living Wage. The group’s action plan aims to triple the number of employers paying the real Living Wage to 150 by 2025.

Despite high levels of employment in Norwich, between March 2020 and April 2021 the city saw universal credit claims increase by 112%. This compares with 89.3% across the UK and suggests a disproportionate rise in the number of people facing in-work poverty. The number of people in work, yet not earning enough to live, will inevitably rise as the cost-of-living crisis deepens.

Norwich is home to many traditionally low-pay sectors, which means more people work in low-pay or insecure occupations. The key sectors that the action group will target to encourage employers to pay the real Living Wage are: care, retail, hospitality, and property and construction.

Councillor Alan Waters, Leader of Norwich City Council and Chair of the Norwich Living Wage Action Group, said: “Poverty has been a stubborn fact of life for many Norwich residents, one that has become an acute problem over the past decade.  A Living Wage is one of the means to tackle the blight of poverty in the city. The success of the Living Wage Foundation in advocating for and successfully making the case to a growing number of employers of the benefits of paying the Living Wage, shows that insecure employment and low pay is not inevitable: there is an alternative.

“Norwich is a success story with an active Living Wage movement that has LW accredited employers across all sectors of the city’s economy. But there is more to do, to take things to the next stage. That is why we have collectively worked with the LW Foundation to become a designated ‘Living Wage Place’.”

Daniel Childerhouse, CEO of Future Projects, said: “We are delighted that Norwich has been officially designated as a Living Wage Place.  This recognition from the Living Wage Foundation signifies a collective commitment from dozens of employers in Norwich to deliver an action plan to drive up the number of accredited organisations and therefore lift thousands more people out of in-work poverty in the coming years.

“The Partnership at the heart of this work includes high profile employers from the public, private and voluntary sectors – all working together to make Norwich a better place to live and work. Norwich is showing real leadership in this area and I am excited to see the impact of our new status on our communities for years to come.”

A spokesperson from AVIVA, said: “Having been involved with the Living Wage campaign since it started in 2005, Aviva is delighted to be part of the action group that has worked towards Norwich being accredited as a Living Wage City. Paying the Living Wage to all employees and our suppliers is absolutely the right thing to do and we believe that this is something all employers should offer.

“Aviva is also working with the Living Wage Foundation to test its proposals for a Living Pension through Aviva’s employee pension scheme. Becoming accredited as a Living Wage City is fantastic for Norwich but there is still a lot of work to do. Aviva will continue to promote the campaign and help get other organisations accredited.”

Jane Basham, CEO of Norfolk Community Law Service, said: “A real living wage matters now more than ever, as the cost-of-living surges and workers struggle to keep their heads above water. We see clients every day at NCLS who are the working poor - impacted by low pay, zero hours and uncertain employment contracts, benefit cuts and unaffordable rents. People who work should be able to enjoy a decent standard of living and not be forced to work excessive hours or take on multiple jobs just to get by. We believe a real living wage is the basis for a fair and equal society and here at NCLS we wear our ‘Living Wage’ badge with pride.”

Katherine Chapman, Living Wage Foundation Director, said: "It’s great to see major local employers in Norwich coming together to tackle in-work poverty. This is an ambitious plan to substantially increase Living Wage jobs in the city, and ultimately make Norwich a Living Wage City. With inflation at the highest level in four decades, paying a real Living Wage calculated based on the cost of living is more important than ever. We hope to see many more employers in the area commit to pay a real Living Wage over the coming years to provide thousands more workers and families with security and stability during these challenging times."