The Living Wage

The vast majority of Catholic schools pay the Living Wage to their employees, with many also accredited with the Living Wage Foundation. The Church’s position is clear that paying the Living Wage is the most important thing, however, we encourage those who can to become accredited. It is always important to note that schools have pressured budgets which is why the decision about accreditation has been left to each individual governing body.

By gaining accreditation, schools directly support the work of the Living Wage foundation, whose mission is to eradicate in-work poverty. Publicly supporting the Living Wage campaign is a great way to put faith into action as an example to pupils and the wider community.

What is the Living Wage?

The Living Wage is an independently calculated hourly wage rate designed to pay employees enough to cover their basic living needs (eg. cost of food, housing and basic needs).

Although the household circumstances of each worker will be different, the wage rate is calculated to reflect a locally determined minimum acceptable standard of living.

The calculations incorporate the cost of a basic basket of goods and necessary housing, childcare and transport costs, as well as statistical analysis on households below half the average income.

For more information please see the Living Wage Foundation.

Why is the Living Wage a Catholic concern?

In November 2012 at their plenary meeting in Leeds, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales passed this resolution on the Living Wage:

The Bishops' Conference recognises that fair wages are essential to the common good of our society. In accordance with Catholic social teaching, and as part of its mission to support the poor and vulnerable, the Bishops' Conference fully endorses the principle of the Living Wage and encourages Catholic organisations and charities in England and Wales to work towards its implementation.

The Bishops' Resolution draws upon the wealth of theological support that the Church has for a 'just wage' and recognised the important role that Catholic organisations can play in serving the Common Good.

The Living Wage embodies the mission of the Church to the poor and encompasses a range of Catholic Social Teaching themes of Solidarity, Subsidiarity and the importance of Human Dignity. This invitation from the Bishops of England and Wales for Catholic organisations to consider the Living Wage is both part of the Church's mission to the poor and also a way for all Catholics to put their faith into action.

This video explores the Living Wage as discussed through the last 100 years of Catholic Social Teaching.

The Living Wage, a concept found in a number of Papal Encyclicals spanning over 100 years of Church teaching, has a distinctly Catholic feel to it. These five encyclicals provide a body of Church literature which contemplates the value and purpose of labour in a market economy and what this means from a Catholic perspective:

Rerum Novarum (1891) - Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on Capital and Labour

Quadragesimo Anno (1931) - Encyclical of Pope Pius XI on Reconstruction of the Social Order

Mater et Magistra (1961) - Encyclical of Pope John XXIII on Christianity and Social Progress

Laborem Exercens (1981) - Encyclical letter by Pope John Paul II on Human Work

Centesimus Annus (1991) - Encyclical letter by Pope John Paul II on The Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum

Becoming a Living Wage employer

Becoming a Living Wage employer is a staged process, which can be completed over a period of time. Employers must first ensure that all directly employed members of staff are paid no less than the Living Wage. Secondly, the employer must ensure that any contractors providing services to the school must be paid the Living Wage.

It is important to note that the situation in each school may vary. Schools should seek legal advice and support from their relevant HR officer/contact when considering the impact of implementing the Living Wage, particularly in respect of their duty to consult with their employees.

If you have any HR or financial queries connected to becoming a Living Wage employer, please also consult with your Diocesan Education Commission.