Council writes Living Wage requirement into contracts

17 September 2019

Westminster City Council is writing into contracts that contractors pay their employees the London Living Wage (LLW).

Rachael Robathan, councillor responsible for finance, property and regeneration, said it was important to extend the benefit to services such as cleaning. “That is the part that is difficult, but it is the way we will get better, more committed services,” she said.

The council already pays its directly employed London staff at least the LLW, and will phase in implementation of the rate to apprentices and to contractors who are not yet committed to the LLW.

Full adoption is expected to take approximately five years, as the contracts are renegotiated and renewed. The potential cost pressure could range between £3m to £6m, according to a council report.

The London Living Wage is currently £10.55 per hour, above the national living wage of £8.21.

The council is also focusing on delivering social value, with 80% of procurement already featuring social value elements, said Robathan, including apprenticeships, and employing a team at the in-house café, which is run by people with learning difficulties.

The social value is coming through procurement, she said, adding that it is often seen as something separate, with those outside the function fearing it because it is legal. But it works best when it is embedded, she said. “It is one of the key enabling services.”

Robathan was talking at a CIPS London branch event on Women in Procurement, where senior procurement leaders talked about their journey to senior management. Robathan had her own stories to tell about sexism in the workplace when she first started in banking in the 80s, and how women felt the need to fit into the workplace as a man would.

She didn’t ask for special favours while setting up a new division in a merchant bank not long after returning from maternity leave. “I went back and forwards to Switzerland for six weeks. It was the worst thing I’ve ever done, and I don’t know how I survived. But I didn’t ask – I thought I had to ‘be a man’. But I was wrong – I had a 10-week-old baby.”

It is important to ensure a good environment at work to encourage women. “There are no jobs women can’t do. It is how we ensure they want to do them and how we encourage them to do them.”

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