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Building back better

8 October 2020

Group of people on virtual call
L-R from top left corner: Dr Deborah Hann, Sarah Hopkins, Katie Roderick, Simon Pickthall, Nirushan Sudarsan, Jessica Rees, Leanne Herberg, Sara Edwards and Aimee Page.

A Senior Lecturer in Employment Relations has led a panel discussion on building back better after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at the latest session in Cardiff Business School’s Breakfast Briefing Series.

Dr Deborah Hann, from Cardiff Business School, got the event underway by arguing that it isn’t enough to simply return to the way things were before. Instead, the pandemic offers an opportunity to really examine ways organisations can be leaders in change for good.

She explained that an interview with Economist Thomas Piketty in The Guardian from May 2020 had inspired her to work together with colleagues from Cynnal Cymru, Citizen’s Cymru, Cardiff and Vale Credit Union and Cardiff Business School’s Executive Education Team on this collaborative breakfast briefing.

Dr Hann showed how Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) policy supports the idea of building back better after the pandemic and that recovery policies need to trigger behavioural changes in order to be meaningful and longstanding.

“We hope this breakfast briefing gets people thinking about what difference they could make both while we ride out the rest of the immediate pandemic, but also in how we rebuild our society afterwards.”

Dr Deborah Hann Senior Lecturer in Employment Relations, Deputy Head of Section (Learning and Teaching)

Before handing over to the first speaker, Dr Hann explained that the briefing would be divided into three sections covering the real living wage, the Cardiff Community Jobs Compact and the payroll partnership scheme, and how these initiatives might help us build back better.

The real living wage

Following Dr Hann’s introduction, Sarah Hopkins, Director of Cynnal Cymru, delivered the first of three presentations on Cynnal’s role in accelerating sustainable development in Wales.

“One of our most important roles is as the real living wage accreditation body,” she said. “We guide organisations based in Wales through the process from expression of interest to accreditation.”

Sarah explained that the real living wage is an independently calculated and voluntarily paid wage that enables employees to meet every day needs.

Contextualising the initiative further, Sarah highlighted that the campaign:

  • Pays £9.50 an hour outside London and £10.85 an hour in London
  • Put over £32m in extra wages into employees’ pockets in Wales since 2011
  • Accredited 224 Living Wage employers in Wales and 5000 across the UK
  • Helped Cardiff become only the second UK city to achieve Living Wage City status

Turning to the social and economic impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Sarah outlined three ways in which the real living wage can help us build back better.

“COVID-19 has hit the lowest paid workers the hardest. To build a resilient and healthy society of the future, we need to reduce this gap in income inequality.”

Sarah Hopkins Director of Cynnal Cymru

“Secondly, Welsh Government has recognised that fair work can help achieve a stronger, modernised and more inclusive economy. Fair reward, with the real living wage as a minimum, is a key component of the definition of fair work put forward by the Fair Work Commission in 2019.”’

“And finally, payment of the real living wage is an enabler. It provides other co-benefits to society and ensures inclusive economic recovery,” Sarah added.

Sarah concluded her presentation by inviting Katie Roderick, HR Manager at Burns Pet Food and Simon Pickthall, Director of Sparkles Cleaning Services, to share employee insights into what the real living wage means to them and their workers.

The community jobs compact

Nirushan Sudarsan, Cardiff University student and Citizens Cymru campaigner, spoke next about his involvement in the Cardiff Community Jobs Compact (CJC).

“The CJC came about in 2017 with the development of the Cardiff Bay area,” he said. “Over the last two decades, we’ve seen lots of big-name businesses and organisations based there...”

“We found that many living nearby in Butetown, Riverside and Grangetown felt underrepresented in lots of those organisations, including major employers like the Welsh Government, ITV and Admiral.”

Nirushan Sudarsan Cardiff University student and Citizens Cymru campaigner

Nirushan explained that the CJC aims to bring local people and employers together to tackle poverty, unemployment, and under-representation in the workforce, through:

  • Real Living Wage accreditation
  • Fair recruitment practices, including name- and address-blind CVs and unconscious bias training
  • Job security, including no compulsion for zero-hours contracts.

Like Sarah, Nirushan concluded his presentation by inviting a guest speaker to speak about their experience of the initiative.

Jessica Rees, Wales Hate Crime Manager at Victim Support, shared her experience and the rewards of signing up to the CJC.

Payroll partnerships

The final presentation came from Leanne Herberg, Chief Executive at Cardiff and Vale Credit Union, who started by contextualising the organisation’s role as a Welsh financial services co-operative offering savings and loans to local people.

She explained that now more than ever employees require easy ways to build their financial resilience through a regular savings culture and the ability to ensure a source of ethical credit where needed.

Leanne shared research on household savings amid crises and referenced Cardiff’s status as a payday lending hotspot - totalling 11,000 high interest payday loans worth a combined £17.5m in one year alone.

“We believe that our payroll partnerships can proactively address these issues and we’re ready to play our role in building back better and building financial wellbeing locally.”

Leanne Herberg Chief Executive at Cardiff and Vale Credit Union

“As an example of this, our combined savings of members currently is just over £7m, and this has increased by just over £1m since lockdown started. So, we’re confident that our payroll partnerships are already building resilience for our members’ futures,” added Leanne.

Leanne too concluded her presentation by inviting guests from Linc-Cymru Housing Association to speak about their experiences of the payroll partnership initiative.

Bringing formal proceedings to a close, Sara Edwards, HR Advisor, and Aimee Page, Health And Safety Coordinator, discussed the business and member benefits of payroll partnership from its development stages as part of the organisation’s well-being strategy through to today’s scheme success.

Following the presentation on each initiative, Dr Hann invited questions for panellists from attendees at the briefing.

Find out more about:

Cardiff Business School's Breakfast Briefing Series is a network of events which enables business contacts to find out more about the latest research and key developments from industrial partners.

Following lockdown measures, implemented by Welsh Government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the School’s Executive Education Team has moved the series online.

If you were unable to attend, watch this recording of the event.

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