Paying the 'Living Wage' is one of the keys to unlocking diversity in PR

This week is Living Wage Week, when businesses large and small across the country raise awareness of their commitments to pay all staff a Living Wage.

Paying the living wage will help unlock diversity and it's the right thing to do, argues Emily Wallace
Paying the living wage will help unlock diversity and it's the right thing to do, argues Emily Wallace
Accreditation from the Living Wage Foundation means that companies pledge to pay all staff a wage that effectively reflects what someone needs to live on, as independently calculated annually.

The living wage, unlike the Government-mandated "national living wage", recognises that younger people have the same living costs as the rest of us. 

In PR, this is particularly important, as our city-focused nature means new entrants often have to move to London or other expensive cities to take up job opportunities. 

We all know that PR as an industry faces serious challenges around lack of diversity. 

Key to addressing this is attracting more entrants from lower socio-economic backgrounds. 

Both unpaid internships and poorly paid first jobs restrict opportunities for young people who lack additional family support to join the PR industry. 

If we want to look more like the country that we seek to engage with, removing barriers to finding the best talent is a good place to start. 

Paying at least the living wage to all employees also makes good business sense. 

While PR is a relatively well-remunerated profession, competition at entry level has led to low starting salaries. 

Paying higher wages can lead to better staff retention, as junior staff members don’t need to seek better-paid employment and instead grow and progress within a company. 

Increasingly, Glassdoor and LinkedIn reviews have a direct impact on an organisation’s reputation and staff recruitment and retention.
Paying a living wage helps demonstrate your commitment to your staff. It is also the right thing to do. 

Making sure that all of our staff can afford their rent and bills should always be a higher priority than the expensive client entertainment, taxi fares and other frippery that can sometimes be seen as part and parcel of the PR industry. 

Society is changing, and our industry is changing with it. 

For the most part, we have moved past the bottles of wine at lunch and the quiet words in corridors with policymakers in favour of more open, evidence-based and results-focused communications strategies; so why are we as an industry lagging behind on modernising how we attract and retain new talent?

More and more of us are taking the decision to pay our teams a living wage. 

I’d like to see the PR sector step forward and recognise that paying a living wage is in the best interests of our sector. 

So how can we play a part to make sure our sector steps up to the challenge? 

Talk to your staff about their struggles in making ends meet, have a discussion about pushing up starting salaries in your organisation, ask why your organisation doesn’t pay the living wage for all staff. 

Ensure that your recruitment process doesn’t favour those who can afford to subsidise their costs. 

Ask about pay rates in your tender process. 

By next year’s Living Wage Week, maybe we can make it the norm, not the exception.

Emily Wallace is chief executive of GK Strategy 

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