Why hospitality staff need the real Living Wage

By Rosie Ferguson, CEO of House of St Barnabas

The tide is turning in hospitality towards the real Living Wage. Not only because it is what workers deserve, but because it is what customers care about.

Recent polling[1] shows that:

  • 84% of us who visit restaurants and bars at least once a month believe that all staff should be paid the real Living Wage
  • 66% of us are more likely to choose a hospitality venue if businesses paid their staff  the real Living Wage 
  • And 60% of us would be more willing to pay an additional amount if the businesses paid their staff the real Living Wage 

Over 6500 workers in London’s hospitality sector have benefited from an uplift to the Living Wage Foundation’s independently calculated ‘London Living Wage’(which is currently £11.95, and due to increase in late October). But hospitality is still the worst sector in London in terms of the rates of guaranteed hourly pay – and we need more employers to accredit to change that.

We want to do that and so, as this polling shows, do Londoners.

At House of St Barnabas, we are a real Living Wage hospitality employer, and a charity supporting those who’ve experienced homelessness into work. Every single day we see the link between precarious, minimum wage jobs and a risk of homelessness. If we want people to not only survive but even aspire to thrive in London, we must guarantee them at least what it costs to achieve a minimum standard of living. The real Living Wage is based on the cost of living and meets our everyday needs - the weekly shop, a broken boiler, a new school uniform for growing kids. There’s a UK rate and a higher rate -  currently £11.95 - London, to reflect the higher living costs in the capital

As Chair of the hospitality strand of the Making London a Living Wage City project[2] we are on a mission to inspire the hospitality sector to normalise guaranteed fair pay within the industry – and now we have the voices of consumers alongside us.

Paying the Living Wage has always been about doing the right thing. But with prices rising higher than ever, it’s never been more important that employers commit to a Living Wage and free workers from the trap of in-work poverty. A Living Wage is good for people, businesses and our economy.  And awareness is rising.

There is strong evidence to suggest that paying the real Living Wage can also support businesses in the ongoing ‘war for talent’; 87% of businesses believe that accreditation had improved their reputation, 66% believe it has helped differentiate their business from other industry peers, and 62% of employers say paying a real Living Wage has improved recruitment of employees. Overall, 94% of Living Wage Employers benefited from the accreditation, with employers reporting improvements in recruitment, reputation, and more.[3]

Running a hospitality business myself, I know it hasn’t been easy the last few years to make the numbers add up, and the pressures of rising cost and unpredictable footfall are continually challenging. But that is the case for our people too. And now is the time to make a change.

We are calling on Hospitality employers to take the livelihoods of their teams seriously and accredit as Living Wage employers.

For more information see https://www.livingwage.org.uk/what-real-living-wage


[1] The data comes from Survation polling commissioned by the Living Wage Foundation. The polling consisted of online interviews of 2103 adults aged 18+ living in London carried out between 23rd June and 3rd July 2023. Survation are a MRS Company Partner and member of the British Polling Council and abide by their rules.

[2] The Making London a Living Wage City project, led by Citizens UK, the Living Wage Foundation and Trust for London, aims to put hundreds of millions of pounds of wages into the pockets of Londoners and lift tens of thousands of workers out of in-work poverty by boosting the number of accredited Living Wage and Living Hours employers across the capital.  

[3] https://www.livingwage.org.uk/good-for-business