The living wage at Dot Dot Dot
Perhaps the best thing about running a social enterprise is that at least some of the time you can do things which are fair and ethical, which make business sense, and which make you personally happy. For Dot Dot Dot, being part of the Living Wage Campaign is a prime example of something that ticks all three boxes, and we’re proud to have received the official stamp of approval from them this week.
We’re committed to paying a living wage to all staff and contractors we work with, including interns. This means paying an amount – calculated by the Greater London Authority for the capital – that allows a decent standard of living. The London Living Wage is currently set at £8.55 an hour – almost 40 per cent more than the minimum wage, and is reassessed annually.
We chose to sign up to this campaign because we agree with the arguments – from left and right wing – that it’s what all businesses ought to do. For all the talk about scroungers and benefit cheats, a large proportion of the benefits bill actually goes to the working poor – people who have jobs but who aren’t being paid enough to keep a roof over their heads, food in the cupboard, and a tiny bit left over to enjoy or to save. If the government has to make up the difference between what companies pay their staff and what they actually need to live on through welfare, then the government is effectively subsidising business models because they don’t need to factor in the full cost of their staff.
Likewise, where organisations depend on unpaid interns to carry out work that needs to be done – as is common across the media, the arts and the third sector – then they are exploiting the desperation of recent graduates to get ahead in the jobs market, and also creating a situation in which only those from wealthy backgrounds can afford to get a foot in the door in these sectors. In many cases, unpaid internships actually break employment law – but few interns are likely to take companies to court, for fear of damaging their job prospects by looking like troublemakers.
Since Dot Dot Dot is all about making sure that our guardians can afford to carve out time to make a difference to the wider community by reducing their living costs, it would be embarrassing to be part of the low-wage problem ourselves. Also, on a personal level as Dot Dot Dot’s founder, having written complaining articles about the internship situation when I was one myself ten years ago, it would be quite embarrassing to be on the wrong side of the debate now.
But quite apart from all of that, we see paying the living wage as being in our own interests because it helps us to attract great applicants to the internships and junior jobs we advertise. We aren’t perfect as an employer, but over time, as we grow, we are doing our best to do the ethical thing, the sustainable thing, and the enjoyable thing, especially when we can do them all at the same time.