Press Story

Scottish government urged to hold to account retailers who pay below the real living wage, for their role in the rise in struggling families in Scotland

A LEADING think-tank has called on the Scottish government to set a clear expectation that all workers be paid at least the real living wage.

In a new research paper, ‘State of the fair work nation’, IPPR Scotland has called on the Scottish government to “shine a clear spotlight” on those large retail companies that refuse to pay their staff at least the real living wage.

Although employment law is reserved to the UK government, researchers at the think-tank say that the Scottish government can nonetheless work creatively to stand up for decent living standards in Scotland. The Scottish government’s forthcoming retail ‘fair work agreement’ should set clear expectations that all retail workers be paid at least the real living wage with large retailers who refuse to do so needing to account for their choice to their employees and customers.

The report authors argue that it's time for employers to step up and play their part in Scotland’s commitment to tackling poverty and creating a fairer and more prosperous nation. Their research shows that more than two thirds of children trapped in poverty in Scotland live in a working household, and that although the Scottish government are and should be using the social security system to do “much of the heavy lifting” to tackle this, employers must play their part too. On one of the sectors characterised by low pay in Scotland and dominated by large companies – retail - IPPR Scotland found that:

  • Only 12,000 workers in Scotland’s retail sectors are employed by a company with real living wage accreditation.
  • In contrast, eight times as many – 98,000 retail workers in Scotland are paid below the real living wage.
  • At the current rate of growth, it would take another 75 years before all retail workers in Scotland receive the real living wage.

IPPR Scotland has also suggested that the Scottish government could use its tax powers to encourage employers to step up and pay Scotland a fair wage.

Dave Hawkey, senior research fellow at IPPR Scotland and co-author of today’s report, said:

The real living wage isn’t a luxury – it's essential for families to meet the basic, decent standard of living. Yet Scotland’s lowest paid retail workers are being hung out to dry by large companies who must now take responsibility for their role in in-work poverty in Scotland.

“Scotland can become a fair work nation in the next few years, but everyone must play their part, including the Scottish government, by stepping up the pressure on exploitative employers in sectors like retail, to ensure that everyone in Scotland is paid a fair, liveable wage for the work that they do”.