Manchester Central is one of the UK’s largest and most versatile event venues. Situated in the heart of Manchester, its iconic vaulted arches and station clock are one of the City’s most recognisable buildings. Attracting over half a million visitors to the city each year, it brings approximately £150m into the local economy in an average year, and hosts a unique array of events, supporting both permanent and temporary workforces.

Manchester Central's Chief Executive Shaun Hinds shares his views on being a Real Living Wage employer:

Q:  What does the Real Living Wage (RLW) campaign mean to you?

A: The Real Living Wage campaign is really important for us. Our business is a people business, we exist because we bring people together. We have a great space to do that, but the experience people get is based around the interactions they have with the various team members.

Whether you’re front of house or part of the backroom team, it’s really important that all of those colleagues and team members feel that they’re part of this one machine at Manchester Central. That starts with basic conditions of employment. Something like the Real Living Wage campaign takes us into a known and accredited environment where people understand this is a topic we take seriously.

People are re-evaluating their lifestyles, they are saying they want to go and work in Greater Manchester or for the companies around that region because they are signed up to the campaign and they do take this seriously.

Q: How did your journey towards being a RLW accredited employer begin?

A: It’s been something that we’ve been on with for quite some time. When I joined Manchester Central there were the origins of this, but I was keen to make sure we accelerated this initiative. It has taken a couple of years for us to get there because of the way we’re structured contractually, but we’re really pleased we’ve got there.

We ensured first that all of our direct employees were starting on at least the Real Living Wage, but we also work with a whole raft of partner organisations that deliver services for and on behalf of Manchester Central. The next stage of our journey was making sure when we re-contracted those services, those contracts ensured that everyone in the chain is on what is now the Real Living Wage.

What this means is that we have a variety of jobs available - full time, fixed contract staff and those brought in when we’re running larger events – they are fairly remunerated.  It’s important that anyone joining us on the more flexible arrangements also benefit. Making this a reality has made us more attractive when people are looking at staffing options.

Just as we’re all contending with the cost of living challenges and all of the price increases, it’s absolutely the right thing to be an employer that is on the right side of this initiative.

Q: What would you say have been the biggest benefits you’ve seen after becoming RLW accredited?

A: What we’ve seen in the last few months, and the journey we’ve come through in the pandemic, it has been a tumultuous time for employment. As we’ve come out of it, people have a clearer view of what their priorities are and what is and isn’t going to work for them. People have gained a confidence to say ‘this is what I want as part of my bargain with my employer’ and that, in my opinion, is great for the future of the workplace. 

I think to be on the right side of this subject, you have to be a proud Real Living Wage employer. The workforce, both current and future, will be and are looking at the different job options available to them. Through the internet, candidates have got the access to be able to compare those choices easily and quickly. It’s important that any accredited business shows up as a Real Living Wage employer as it gets you past the first base and you’re eliminating a number of potential competitors. Then we can start to think about the other aspects of our jobs that are appealing.

It helps us attract and retain staff and it helps our team feel good about working for the company. If you can take as many of those little niggles away as possible it makes you more appealing, people then choose you as a potential employer.

Q: What message do you have to other employers in your field who are not already RLW accredited?

A: Our ability to attract a workforce and secure the resources that we need to deliver our services and products are not guaranteed like they may have been in the past. We may have taken for granted in the past the ability to attract the numbers of people you might need to do a particular job. For all the reasons we’re aware of, we’re in different times now.

At the moment, while not everybody is a Real Living Wage employer, those that are get an advantage. For those of us already in it, we’re already reaping some of those benefits. We could say we don’t want anyone else to do it because we would retain our competitive advantage, but that’s not actually the truth. The truth is, I would like everyone to do it.

In our sector there are great careers to be had, I want people to come into our industry not because it’s something to do ‘while I wait for something else’, but because it’s something they could turn into a full-time, long-term career. The last thing I would want is people to be put off coming into the sector because the starting salary isn’t right when compared to working elsewhere.

It's important that, as an industry, we are all at the Real Living Wage level so that we can then start to talk about all of the great benefits that come from working in the hospitality and service sector. If we can make that our collective starting point, more people will take that first step into the industry. We have a job to do to dispel outdated perceptions of our industry and this is an initiative that can help us to address that, allowing us to promote some of the great attributes and opportunities ahead for us.