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Employers sign up to living wage
More employers are signing up to pay the living wage, research has shown as new hourly rates for the measure were announced.
The living wage is currently £8.55 an hour in London and £7.45 outside the capital, compared with the national minimum wage of £6.31 for adults and £5.03 for 18 to 20-year-olds.
Campaigners are urging firms to pay the living wage rate to help workers cope with rising household bills such as soaring energy costs.
A new study by Save The Children revealed that almost two million children were living in households where their parents or guardians earned less than the living wage.
The charity said the figure had increased by over 100,000 in the past year, warning that more children risked being pushed into poverty because work wasn't paying enough.
Save the Children's head of economics, Priya Kothari, said: "It's not fair that two thirds of children in poverty live in households where one or both parents work. That's why we are calling for widespread adoption of the living wage.
"We know that low pay leads directly to financial pressures and difficult choices - parents choosing to be cold so that their children's bedroom can be heated, not being able to spend enough quality time as a family - despite the best efforts of hard-working parents. Employers must do more to make work pay."
London Mayor Boris Johnson will announce the new rate for the capital, while the figure for the rest of the country will be unveiled by the Living Wage Foundation, which was launched two years ago by Citizens UK.
The foundation said more than 400 employers were now signed up to the living wage after a "sharp rise" in support for the higher rate.
Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: "The living wage means that low paid workers do not have to make tough choices over whether they can afford the everyday things that most of us take for granted, such as their fuel bill or a winter coat for their children."
The Government has been urged to do more to promote a higher minimum rate after research showed that more than five million workers earned less than the living wage.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis will use a fairground strength tester to put his weight behind the campaign at a union stunt outside Parliament.
A report by Unison and the National Union of Students said that over 12,500 employees in UK universities were paid less than the living wage.
"We are hurtling towards a two-tier workforce where women and part-timers, the young and the old are slipping to the bottom of the pile," warned Unison's assistant general secretary Karen Jennings. "Encouraging employers to adopt a living wage is only the start of addressing this divide.
"People are waking up to the damaging impact of low pay on families and on the wider community. Rock bottom wages mean parents have to take on extra work, leaving less time for them to look after their children. Other families have to go without activities such as sports clubs.
"The knock on costs to our society are huge and the Government should know better. As well as lifting families out of poverty, paying the living wage also boosts productivity and reduces staff turnover - saving employers money."
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, whose members were on strike last week over pay, said: "Staff in our universities have suffered real-terms pay cuts year after year, while those at the top have continued to enjoy rises. This exposes the unfairness of pay rises for vice-chancellors when some staff are not even paid the living wage.
"We hope the employers' representatives will take note of the figures and understand the anger staff feel at the pay injustices in higher education. Nobody wants to see further disruption in our universities and we hope the employers will come back to the table to deal with the problem."
Employers chose to pay the living wage on a voluntary basis, with the rate set by the Centre for Social Policy at Loughborough University outside London, and by the Greater London Authority in the capital.
The calculation is based on a basket of goods and services regarded as essential to achieving a basic standard of living.
Rhys Moore, director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: "With working poverty on the rise, paying a living wage is becoming a must for every responsible employer. We are working with businesses across the UK to help them do the right thing, so that from the chief executive to the cleaner, hard work pays."
A Government spokesman said: "We encourage employers to pay above the national minimum wage when they are profitable and when it's not at expense of jobs, which is what the Low Pay Commission takes into consideration when it sets the minimum wage.
"Despite being in tough times, this Government is doing absolutely everything it can to help people on low pay with the cost of living.
"That's why we're taking two million people out of tax altogether, cutting income tax for those on low incomes and freezing council tax."