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All employers should commit to paying a living wage, says ActionAid UK's head of HR

In 1999, the Labour Government introduced the National Minimum Wage. Fifteen years on, it is expected to become a hot political issue in the lead-up to the 2015 general election

This month, the Low Pay Commission, which sets the rate, is expected to mandate a ‘modest’ annual rise, while George Osborne has gone on record hinting at a significant rise. Should the minimum wage rise significantly, and would that help boost the economy, or would it affect job creation and hurt smaller businesses?

HR magazine asked Graham Salisbury, head of HR, ActionAid UK for his views:

"The mission of ActionAid UK is to ‘work with poor and excluded people to eradicate poverty and injustice’. Sadly, in the 15 years since the introduction of a National Minimum Wage, inequality has increased.

In recent years, ActionAid has been at the forefront of organisations campaigning for retailers to ensure their overseas suppliers implement a living wage for garment factory workers, and for supermarkets to trade fairly with their suppliers.

We have to put our money where our mouth is and commit to paying a decent wage to all of our UK-based employees too. We want people to know that not only are we an organisation that campaigns vigorously on fairness in pay for people overseas, but also that we take our responsibilities to our own staff seriously. Our commitment to paying the living wage is in line with our values and hopefully strengthens our reputation as an ethical employer.

Our decision to commit to paying the living wage was not one we took lightly. As we are largely funded by individual donors, many of whom are themselves facing considerable pressure on their finances, we have to exercise stewardship over the money they give us to help eliminate poverty. Nevertheless, it would be wrong for us to campaign for reasonable wages elsewhere without treating our own staff with fairness and equity.

As an organisation that already pays the living wage, the proposed above-inflation increase to the National Minimum Wage is therefore academic for us, but we strongly believe all employers – in the UK and overseas – should commit to paying a living wage and focus on ethical approaches in their work and with their workforces.

ActionAid is all about making a positive impact on the lives of people living in poverty, so we need to tackle this issue whether those people live in the developing world or are among the lowest paid in the UK."