By Daniel Hunter

More than a third of employers in the hospitality industry do not know what the living wage is, according to a new poll.

Despite campaigns to raise the profile of the benefits of paying the living wage to 5.28 million people earning less than the living wage, sustainability business Footprint found that 34% of those questioned didn’t know what it was, while another third knew but wasn’t paying it.

The UK hospitality industry, worth an estimated £4.25 billion per year, is the fifth largest employer in Britain, but research by KPMG in November suggested that over 80% of sector staff earn closer to the minimum wage of £6.50 per hour.

The ‘Living Wage’ is higher at £7.85 (£9.50 for London) and is based on the amount needed to cover the basics such as rent, food and energy.

“Economic sustainability in the UK is the responsibility of us all and businesses striving to achieve this laudable goal should start by looking inwards,” says Nick Fenwick-Clennell, CEO of Footprint.

“It’s a travesty that so many people are earning less than they need to maintain even a basic lifestyle when the High Pay Centre shows that the CEOs of top industry companies such as Whitbread are paid up to 418 times more than the average employees.

“The industry at large has shown signs of growth and evidence suggests paying staff a higher salary will help retention and productivity as well as contribute to an overall boost to the wider economy, so there is little excuse financially speaking.

“A general lack of information on the living wage is one of the key problems with implementation — not enough is being done to drive education amongst employers on the subject resulting in low uptake. It’s time this changed; the UK is a leading powerhouse on a global scale and no one working in this country should have to choose between paying a bill; and buying food.”

Footprint is calling for the government to help provide more guidance to UK businesses on the living wage and its benefits.

It is also calling for industry organisations to work together to help the hospitality sector lead the way on driving living wage take-up amongst the biggest foodservice companies.