MORE than 500 businesses, social enterprises and charities have joined the Scottish Living Wage Accreditation initiative to reward their staff for their hard work and loyalty with a decent £8.25 per hour wage.

Since its inception in April 2014, employers across the country have embraced the concept and are now reaping the rewards with an increase in production, a reduction in absenteeism and finding easier to recruit and retain the best workers.

Over the coming months,The National will be celebrating those who have already signed up to the movement to help tackle in-work poverty in Scotland, become a responsible employer and boost customer awareness of their organisation.

One such company leading the way and flying the flag for the Scottish Living Wage Accreditation is Utopia Computers in Kilmarnock, which became Scotland’s first computer manufacturer to become living wage accredited and the very first company in Ayrshire to do so in September 2014.

Directors Craig Hume, 35, and Mark Lawrie, 29, made the decision to join the living wage initiative after one of their 10 staff, who had been with the company for six months, turned 21 and his wages went up from the minimum wage for a 20-year-old of £5.03 to £6.50 an hour.

They considered why this team member was worth any more when he became 21, than he was the day before, and wondered what kind of message they were sending out to their employees by paying them the minimum wage.

Hume said: “It was like a lightbulb moment and we started looking at the living wage.

“One of the people we spoke to before we decided to go down this route was our accountants and their immediate reaction was that we didn’t need to do this and it was likely to hit our net profit at the end of the day.

“We went against that feedback. We had a vision of where we wanted to take the company and the only way we were going to be able to deliver on that is if everyone had the same vision and drive, and the idea that people would be struggling at home to pay a bill or buy their first house just didn’t sit well with us.

“We made the decision to become a living wage employer and it has been fantastic. The journey we have had as a company has been amazing and more importantly the team are able to go on holiday, buy a house or get it decorated. You can see the difference and from the company’s point of view, productivity is growing.

“Now we do everything we can to encourage other employers to consider why they pay their staff what they pay and what would it look like to consider moving to the living wage.”

He said his entire team were all hard-working individuals who put 100 per cent into growing Utopia and were entitled to a higher standard of living.

Hume added: “There is a misconception that working for a smaller company automatically means you are lower paid, this is certainly not always the case.

“Rather than looking solely to the Gvernment to increase the minimum wage, I think that the responsibility also lies with companies who are seeing growth,like ourselves, to ensure that they are paying their employees appropriately.”

Last year, the firm picked up the Ayrshire Chamber award for excellence in manufacturing.