Building a Living Wage City

Today’s blog is by Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor for City Economy,
Finance, and Performance, and Labour Councillor for Hillfields.

With more than 40,000 workers in our city now guaranteed at least the real Living Wage, Bristol City Council won the Public Sector Champion Award at the Living Wage Champion Awards. We were recognised for our trailblazing leadership in advancing the real Living Wage within the public sector.

The real Living Wage is the only rate calculated according to what people need to make ends meet. It provides a voluntary benchmark for employers that choose to take a stand, by ensuring their staff earn a wage that meets the costs and pressures they face in their everyday lives. The Living Wage Foundation usually sets the real Living Wage rate each November, but this will be brought forward this year to September in response to the cost of living crisis.

This award follows us being recognised, back in 2020, by the Living Wage Foundation for our efforts in building a Living Wage City. We were among the first few places to be recognised as part of the Living Wage Places scheme, as we build a better Bristol where nobody is left behind.

Since then, 125 more workplaces in Bristol have become Living Wage accredited, seeing over 40,000 workers in the city in Living Wage accredited jobs. Over 290 workplaces are now committed to the paying the real Living Wage, with 150 headquartered in Bristol.

This is testament to the hard work of the Bristol Living Wage City action group, a leadership team comprising of council officers and accredited real Living Wage employers, who have been working tirelessly to champion and promote the movement across the city to invite more people to join us on the drive to ensure people receive a fair pay.

Receiving this award highlights the huge amount of work that has been carried out in championing the real Living Wage, but we do still have a long way to go. Almost 12 per cent of jobs in Bristol are paying below the real Living Wage. This is significantly below the national average and it means there are still 33,000 people in Bristol earning a wage that isn’t reflective of the true cost of living.

A graphic from the Living Wage Foundation (logo top left), shows as black and grey city skyline. In the bottom left corner, white text reads: not just good for people, good for business. On blue, orange, yellow, and green bar chart bars rising from the city, text reads: 64% of businesses say the Living Wage has helped differentiate themselves from others in their industry; 75% of businesses say the Living Wage have increased motivation and retention rates for employees; 86% of businesses say the Living Wage has improved the reputation of their business; 93% of businesses say the Living Wage has benefited their business.

There are significant benefits to businesses by becoming an accredited real Living Wage employer. This ranges from making them more competitive and providing a stronger business reputation to helping attract and retain staff and cutting HR costs related to staff turnover and sickness.

Our Bristol Living Wage action group meets regularly to ensure the initiative is on track while sharing ideas and plans for the next steps. Council staff attended the Festival of Sustainable Business in June to promote the initiative to the 500 attendees registered and the team will also be present at Bristol Pride on the Downs on Saturday, 9 July, so please come and visit us if you’re heading along.

To find out more, contact the Bristol Living Wage team at or visit the Living Wage Foundation website. You can also hear from a selection of accredited Bristol employers on our YouTube channel about why they pay their staff the real Living Wage.

Four people stand, with the middle two holding an award.
Lisa Smith (We The Curious, second left) and Catie Mahoney (Bristol City Council, second right) with Matt Sparkes (Linklaters, right) and Mr MoneyJar/Timi Merriman-Johnson (left).