PAYING the real living wage is not only morally right but also helps to attract talent and improve staff retention.

That’s the view of the head of one of Scotland’s leading social enterprises, the Wise Group, which is celebrating its first anniversary of becoming a Living Wage Accredited Employer.

The Wise Group, which employs just fewer than 250 staff across Scotland and the North East of England, has been paying its staff the living wage for a decade, and went through the process to be formally accredited as a living wage employer in 2017.

The Wise Group supports people across the country to unlock their potential and so transform their future. Its main areas of work include supporting people to gain skills and secure jobs through employability and training programmes, community justice services which reduce reoffending and help people to make a fresh start, and sustainability, with an emphasis on reducing fuel poverty and on helping people towards financial fitness.

“We work every day with people who’ve experienced real inequality in their lives, people dealing with the impact of poverty, maybe struggling to give their children the life they’d want them to have, or sometimes simply to feed and clothe them,” said Wise Group chief executive Sean Duffy.

“Our talented, massively committed staff team spend their working days supporting others out of poverty, whether helping them to get jobs, save money on their heating bills or ensuring that people coming out of prison get the financial and benefits advice they need. So for us, paying the living wage to our staff is a no-brainer.

“Even aside from the overriding moral imperative to pay the living wage, it also just makes good business sense in terms of attracting talent and improving staff retention.”

He pointed out that Wise Group staff live their values in many other ways too. Through the voluntary Wise Aid scheme, employees can choose to pay a portion of their salary each month into a fund to support a range of groups and people in need. Wise Group staff themselves choose fund beneficiaries, which so far have included baby banks, community groups and lunch clubs, as well as more established charities.

The Wise Group also runs its own food bank, with staff making sure there is a steady supply of food and toiletries going to people who need them – clients on Wise Group programmes who are trying to improve their lives.

And the group recently pledged its support to MCR Pathways, the Glasgow-based charity which supports disadvantaged young people in schools to improve their life chances.

“We’ve pledged to give 10% of our workforce the chance to sign up as mentors for vulnerable young people via MCR Pathways,” said Duffy.

“They’ll do this during their working hours – it’s a big commitment, but one we feel is important to make.”

The real living wage, currently set at £8.75, is an hourly rate updated annually and calculated according to the real costs of living.

The Westminster Government’s so-called “living wage” is merely a new minimum wage rate for staff over 25-years-old. It was introduced in April 2016 and the rate is £7.83 per hour as of April 2018. The government rate is based on median earnings while the Living Wage Foundation rate is calculated according to the cost of living.

The accreditation programme in Scotland launched in April 2014. It is an initiative from The Poverty Alliance, in partnership with the Living Wage Foundation, and is funded by the Scottish Government.