THE BLOG
19/02/2015 03:03 GMT | Updated 20/04/2015 06:59 BST

Whether You're a Football Club or a Business, Paying the Living Wage Is Just Good Sense

Although I'm duty-bound to be a Leeds United supporter, I felt a sudden pang of allegiance to West Ham last week when they announced they would follow the lead of Chelsea and pay their staff the Living Wage.

Even those with no interest in football have followed this story, because most people find it outrageous that Wayne Rooney takes just two hours to earn what a cleaner in his stadium would earn in a year. And after Premier League clubs recently signed a £5.1billion deal with Sky, campaigners are stepping up the pressure and are set to meet again with executives to press for them to pay their cleaners, catering staff and stewards a living wage.

Given the positive reaction both Chelsea and West Ham fans have had to their clubs' support of the living wage, it's hard to understand why this is such a battle. A survey for the GMB union found that 84% of football supporters want Premier League and Football League clubs to pay their staff a wage they can live on. It's the right thing to do, and the goodwill that paying the living wage would create would be huge.

But more than that, it makes good business sense. Thanks to the efforts of campaigners, over a thousand companies now pay the living wage, including 21 FTSE 100 companies - big brands like Barclays, Aviva and ITV.

More than 34,000 workers have directly benefited as a result, while employers have reported business benefits such as improved staff morale and productivity, and reduced recruitment and retention costs. Their workers are happier, and feel more valued.

But most importantly, by paying the living wage their staff are afforded the dignity that should come with a days' work. They can pay the bills, put food on the table and keep a roof over their head.

The reality is that across Britain right now there are 4.9million people earning less than the living wage, up from 3.4million in 2009. And figures that Labour have released this week show that since 2010 more than half of all new jobs created have been in low-paid industries.

Too many people are going out to work every day, and not bringing home enough to provide for themselves and their families. The number of people in work who still need benefits to make ends meet is rising, and this is why the government is failing to control the welfare budget.

Labour has a better plan - one that will make work pay. A Labour government will increase the National Minimum Wage to £8 an hour by 2020, putting £3,000 a year more in the pocket of a full time worker on the minimum wage.

And we'll give incentives to businesses to promote the living wage. Lots of good firms out there want to pay their staff a living wage, but unlike football clubs, don't have billions sloshing round. Labour's Make Work Pay contracts will give every employer that signs up to pay a living wage a 12-month tax rebate of up to £1,000 for every low paid worker who gets a pay rise. This rebate will help businesses invest in the equipment or training that can make the living wage work for them. We'll share with businesses the savings to government from higher national insurance and tax contributions, but taxpayers will also benefit from the lower welfare payments that come from paying a living wage.

Making sure people are paid a decent wage is not just the right thing to do, it's good for working families, it's good for business and it's good for the economy. Football clubs should take note, follow the lead of Chelsea, West Ham and smaller clubs like Hearts and Luton, and pay their staff a living wage.

Rachel Reeves is Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Member of Parliament for Leeds West