New action plan launched to help employers act on rising in-work poverty

With financial concerns affecting the performance of workers across the UK, Business in the Community, with input from forward-thinking companies such as Starbucks, Royal Mail and integrated facilities management company Sodexo, has today launched an action plan for business to be part of the solution.

1 in 8 UK workers (3.7 million) are now living in poverty* and there’s growing recognition of the plight of working families ‘just about managing’**, with repercussions for business in terms of recruitment, retention and productivity. Almost a third (32.5%) of Business in the Community members have reported taking company-wide action on low-paid work, with successful outcomes.  

Drawing on good practice from leading companies, Business in the Community, with support from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is making the case for all employers to improve the quality of work for their lowest-paid staff.  

The Good Work for All action plan for businesses offers evidence and practical steps for change, illustrated with business case studies across three key areas: offering fair pay and benefits; reviewing the security and structure of roles, and ensuring all workers have access to the skills and development opportunities needed to progress.

Catherine Sermon, Employment Director at Business in the Community, says business has a key role to play:
“With record numbers of people in employment, we should be celebrating. However many jobs, predominantly but not exclusively at the lower end of the pay-scale, are not providing financial stability. This is worrying, particularly for some of the most vulnerable people currently in work. When there’s evidence to suggest someone with financial concerns loses on average six days of time at work each year, we can begin to understand the potential for businesses that choose to improve work for their low-paid employees.”

This new resource will support more businesses to take practical steps to improve working lives, with a positive effect on employee engagement, innovation and productivity.”

One of the case study companies featured is Starbucks, which introduced a rental deposit scheme to help employees in its inner-city stores manage the high housing costs of housing and is seeing retention rates improve.
Russell Butcher, a Senior Manager at Starbucks, says businesses need to think differently about good work:
“At Starbucks, we know the role businesses can play in impacting the many aspects of their employees' lives. By looking at your business and asking ‘is there anything we could do to help?’ you’re likely to find solutions to some of your most pressing business concerns. For us, we recognised the cost of living is higher in certain areas and that’s why we launched our deposit rental scheme Home Sweet Loan, which has now benefitted over 100 of our employees (partners).”

The Good Work for All project is funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as part of its work to solve UK poverty.
Louise Woodruff, Policy and Research Manager, said:
“Businesses have a crucial role to play in solving the UK’s in-work poverty problem. This new action plan will be a great support to employers to share and learn from others about what works to improve the quality of jobs, especially for employees on low incomes. Improving pay, benefits, progression and job security will all contribute to making work the route out of poverty we would all like it to be.”


  • *Joseph Rowntree Foundation, UK Poverty 2017
  • **RSA and Nottingham Civic Exchange, Addressing Economic Insecurity
  • ***Britain’s Healthiest Workplace 2017


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