City investors call on listed companies to pay living wage

A group of City investors with assets worth more than £180bn has written to listed firms including Vodafone, Balfour Beatty and Severn Trent urging them to pay all employees a living wage.

The chief executives of the utilities firms Severn Trent and United Utilities, homeware retailer Dunelm Group and telecoms firm Vodafone have received letters saying that paying the living wage to all staff and key contractors is the hallmark of a responsible business.

Signatories to the letters, coordinated by the Share Action campaign group, include the Strathclyde Pension Fund, which is run by Glasgow city council, Hermes Investment Management and Nest, the state-backed workplace pension scheme.

The investors have also targeted construction firms, which are “particularly vulnerable to precarious work and low pay”, Share Action said. Along with Balfour Beatty, the chief executives of Bellway, Bovis Homes and Crest Nicholson have received the letters.

Only 37 of the firms in the FTSE 100 are living wage-accredited employers, while the number of Britons earning less than the living wage has risen to around 6 million people, according to the Living Wage Foundation, which sets the voluntary pay benchmark.

The living wage of £9 an hour – or £10.55 in London – is higher than the £7.83 national living wage, the legal minimum set by the government for workers aged 25 and over. The national living wage is due to rise to £8.21 in April.

Tess Lanning, the director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: “These are some of the UK’s most successful businesses and yet many are paying their security and cleaning staff too little to live on.”

Severn Trent and Crest Nicholson said they pay the living wage to direct employees who are not on a training rate. United Utilities said it paid the living wage to all employees and was in dialogue with the Living Wage Foundation. Dunelm said it paid employees competitive rates, which are benchmarked against the wider industry.