When we launched Ingle & Rhode back in 2007, we had a vision for the business based around our core ethical policies – transparency in the supply chain, and the need to avoid environmental damage and human exploitation. These values were not to be an optional extra, they would be at the heart of everything we did. Eight years later, we still feel the same way, so it was interesting and also humbling when we were recently reminded that there is always room for improvement.
A new client, James Asfa, visited us to discuss buying an engagement ring. Like many of our clients, James is a committed ethical consumer and wanted to dig down beyond the information on our website to discuss what our ethical policies actually mean in practice. This is something we welcome, and actively encourage our clients to do.
Aside from wanting to understand how we source our materials and make our jewellery, James also wanted to know whether we were a Living Wage Employer. The answer was that no, we weren’t. Our assumption had always been that since our designers, mounters, and setters were all well paid, there couldn’t be any issue that would need addressing.
James asked us whether aside from employees there were any support staff who worked part-time, such as caterers or cleaners. In fact the cleaning in our building is sub-contracted to a company that supplies cleaners to quite a few offices in the area. On James’s suggestion, we spoke to the managing director, and discovered that the cleaners were paid the Minimum Wage – £6.50 per hour.
In reality, the Minimum Wage simply isn’t enough to survive – certainly not in London. The Living Wage Foundation calculates the Living Wage based on the basic cost of living across the UK. In London, the Living Wage is £9.15 per hour.
Our next step was obvious, to sign up as a Living Wage Employer. For every hour they do at our offices, our cleaners are now paid the Living Wage, not the Minimum Wage. In James’s words, this is why it is important: “The idea of the living wage is simple: if people are working hard they should be earning enough to provide for themselves and their families. A fair wage is also a sign that all staff are valued and appreciated.”
We are very grateful to James for bringing this issue to our attention, we are delighted to now be a Living Wage Employer. And the story has not one, but two happy endings – James is now engaged, and busy planning his wedding.