The Real Living Wage and the design industry

eco designer nathan lance working at b corp design agency leap in cornwall

Leap are proud to be a beyond Real Living Wage employer.

What is the Real Living Wage?

In the UK there are two legal minimum hourly pay rates: the minimum wage and the National Living Wage. The minimum wage applies to everyone under the age of 23, whilst the National Living Wage is the government minimum for over 23s introduced in 2016 in response to The Living Wage campaign. The minimum wage is a figure negotiated by business bodies and trade unions, and is currently £8.36 per hour. The National Living Wage is set by the government based on a target to reach 66% of median earnings by 2024. Neither take into account the actual cost of living! The Real Living Wage does. It includes a London weighting, where the cost of living is higher, and is independently calculated based on what people need to get by. It takes in to account not only regular living costs such as rent or the price of a weekly shop, but also those surprise costs that we all get from time to time, like an unexpected trip to the dentist.

The Living Wage Foundation calculates the Real Living Wage each year, campaigns for employers to pay it, and celebrates those that are accredited. There are now nearly 9,000 Living Wage Employers, including half of the FTSE 100.

In November 2021 the Real Living Wage was set at £9.90 per hour across the UK and £11.05 per hour in London, for anybody over the age of 18.

Pay in the creative sector

The creative sector has historically been a mess of inequality when it comes to remunerating people for their talents, skills, and hard work. A study published at the end of 2019 found that despite the creative industries growing at nearly twice the rate of the broader UK economy since 2010 and being worth over £100 billion in 2018, the majority of roles in the sector pay less than the national average salary of just over £35,000.
We’ve featured this topic before, when Leap’s creative director Nathan Lance wrote an article titled The design industry versus the working classes:

“Within my first year at university there was already an expectation of working within zero pay internships – working for 3 months or more at a studio for free (with travel and lunch paid for if you’re lucky) and without promise of employment at the end.”

Wages at Leap – beyond the Real Living Wage

At Leap there isn’t a large vertical structure or hierarchy; unlike large or multinational corporations where there is a huge difference between the wages of the lowest paid employees (perhaps cleaners or security guards) and the CEO, we have a small, skilled team and the difference between the wages of our junior designers and the founder/CSO or MD is not very large. To recertify as B Corp we have to undertake a Business Impact Assessment every three years, and one of the questions within that focuses on the ratio between the lowest and highest paid employees, divided into bands according to the ratio; Leap has always been in the lowest band.

We have always paid above the Real Living Wage at Leap, and we joined the Living Wage Foundation to show our support and to help to increase awareness of it. Cornwall has some of the most impoverished communities in Europe, so spreading the Real Living Wage message is particularly important in our region. We’d love to see all of Cornwall and the isles of Scilly become a Living Wage Foundation region that values its people and social capital. For us membership is about contributing to the growth of this vision.

To find out more or to sign your business up, visit The Living Wage Foundation.