Fairer pay, worker voice and better business – the role for subnational authorities

Ahead of the local and mayoral elections, we call on candidates to use their powers to tackle pay inequality and give workers more control over their working lives.

This short discussion paper argues that while most policy on pay and employment rights is set by central government and national regulators, there is much that local councils and metro mayors can do to empower workers, secure fairer pay and promote responsible business.

The report makes a number of policy recommendations focused on local and regional authorities’ employment practices, strategic use of their procurement budgets and their wider local/regional economic strategies.

These include:

  • Committing to pay a real living wage to all employees and outsourced workers. While the prospect of introducing a living wage may seem like a daunting financial challenge, 125 subnational authorities have already been accredited as payers of the real Living Wage by the Living Wage Foundation.

  • Developing an employment charter setting out standards that local businesses can sign up to, and embedding these standards into procurement policies. Such a charter would include guarantees on paying the living wage, providing secure employment, and ensuring trade union recognition for workers of the companies in question.

  • Publishing pay bands showing how the local and regional authorities distribute their total spend on pay between high and low earners, based on the pay ratio disclosures mandated for major listed private companies. While the salaries of the highest paid employees in local and regional authorities are far lower than those in similar roles in the private sector, transparency can help to assess what difference a more even distribution of spend on pay would make to low or middle earning employees.