Living Wage: A UK perspective

The living wage is gaining momentum in the UK. We look at its costs and benefits, which sectors have the most exposure to the issue and the impact of its implementation on corporate margins.

26 March 2015

Elly Irving

ESG analyst

In summary, we find that the costs and benefits of introducing the living wage include:


  • Higher costs per employee
  • A negative impact on corporate earnings (particularly in the retail sector, where there is a larger number of sub-living wage earners)
  • Additional costs if a company wishes to maintain wage differentials across its workforce


  • Lower employee turnover (studies have shown that paying a living wage has increased employee motivation and loyalty)
  • Lower absenteeism
  • Increased productivity (especially where the living wage has been introduced alongside an up-skilling programme)
  • Improved customer satisfaction and lower complaints
  • A greater ability to attract and retain talent
  • Living wage earners see an increase in disposable income, which is then spent elsewhere in the economy (retailers, restaurants and bars are likely to benefit from this)

Retail sector most exposed in the UK

Research suggests that the hotels, restaurants and leisure sub-sector employs the largest proportion of sub-living wage workers.

For example, the graph below highlights that 90% of bar staff earn less than the living wage, but the retail sector employs the largest absolute number of sub-living wage workers with 760,000 UK-based workers.

So for investors, this may mean a higher level of employee turnover and lower productivity per employee than other sectors.

Figure 1: Occupations with greatest number of people below living wage: all UK

Source: Living wage research for KPMG, Markit, 2014.

Savings partially offset the costs in UK retail sector

Our proprietary research highlights a material cost in reaching living wage, ranging between 1 – 2% of UK revenues. However, the potential savings achieved through lower absenteeism and lower turnover offsets between 16% to 36% of these additional costs.

While the range of potential benefits is broad, we note that speciality retailers are best placed to benefit from introducing the living wage.

With higher margins, it is more feasible to invest in staff, and the resulting improvement in customer service is likely to have a greater impact on sales, as demonstrated by two case studies which are presented in the full article at the link below.

An important part of Schroders’ engagement strategy

As part of Schroders’ engagement strategy, we have spoken to a number of different companies across the consumer sector on the topic of living wage.

While very few consumer companies have become accredited living wage employers, there is some evidence of pay increases and up-skilling programmes. Schroders will continue to engage with companies to better understand the costs and potential benefits that can be gained from introducing a living wage on a case by case basis.

Investment conclusions

There is increasing pressure from a broad range of stakeholders on companies to pay a living wage. While there are clear direct costs, especially on corporate earnings, the benefits appear significant (although these may be difficult to directly quantify).

We find that the cost and benefits differ not only between sectors, but also within sectors. Indeed, the costs and benefits are greater for the retail and leisure sector, and within this sector, it may be more feasible to pay a higher wage amongst speciality retailers.

In our view, the issues of the living wage should therefore be considered on an individual basis.

Please find the full article at the link below

Read the full report

Living wage: A UK perspective 6 pages | 266 kb



  • UK
  • Responsible Investment

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