Edinburgh could become 'living hours city' to lift 43,000 workers out of poverty

Dr Jim McCormick, chairman of the Edinburgh Poverty CommissionDr Jim McCormick, chairman of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission
Dr Jim McCormick, chairman of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission
The chairman of a commission investigating poverty in the Capital has called for workers in the city to be guaranteed hours in a bid to lift 43,000 households in employment out of hardship.

Dr Jim McCormick, who is the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s associate director for Scotland, is chairing the Edinburgh Poverty Commission – which will make recommendations to help lift 80,000 in the city our of poverty.

Dr McCormick is investigating whether Edinburgh could become a living hours city – eliminating zero hours contracts to ensure citizens are paid a reliable salary so they can afford rent and other costs.

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In Edinburgh, 43,200 people in poverty are in a household where someone is in work. Of the 21,900 children in poverty in the city, two thirds or 13,800, are living in families where an adult is in work.

A living hours city would involve employers committing to decent notice periods for shifts, a right to a contract with living hours – a guaranteed 16 hours of work a week, unless the workers requests otherwise.

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“We don’t know what that will look like in terms of practice. It feels plausible that Edinburgh could be one of the really early adopters, even though this will clearly take some time to work through to really shine a light on not just wages but hours.”

There are 448 living wage employers in the Capital, according to the Living Wage Foundation, which pay employees at least £9 per hour.

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Standard Life, who employs 3,000 people in Edinburgh, has already committed to becoming a Living Hours company.

Sandy MacDonald, head of corporate sustainability at Standard Life Aberdeen, is also sitting on the Edinburgh Poverty Commission.

“As well as benefiting workers and their families, we feel that businesses who can provide certainty and control to their employees are more sustainable and can reap the benefits of their people being able to perform at their best. We welcome the opportunity to play our part in furthering the movement for fair work and responsible business.”

Officials estimate that around £80m of entitled benefits are left unclaimed by Edinburgh citizens. Dr McCormick estimates that more than half of this is for pensioner households but “the bulk of what is left is in-work support and only a small fraction of it is likely to be out of work support”. The city council said around 14 per cent of housing benefit remains unclaimed and that only 60 per cent of pension credit is claimed every year.

For more information or to submit evidence to the Edinburgh Poverty Commission, visit https://edinburghpovertycommission.org.uk/get-involved/