Image: Adapted from Dilbert, June 1 2001 © Scott Adams
The [London] Living Wage is an independently calculated value which takes into account the costs of living. It reflects the higher cost of Living in London, and includes under-25s; unlike the government’s “National Living Wage”. On the 6th November 2017, the Living Wage Foundation announced an increase in the [London] Living Wage, to reflect inflation. This increase changes the minimum hourly rate from £9.75 to £10.20 in London, and £8.45 to £8.75 in the rest of the UK.
AJ100 data shows that a decade ago many Part Is in London earned £18,000 a year. This is still commonplace today. For a 40 hour week, this is £8.65/hour. This wage stagnation is primarily attributed to architects’ fees not rising relative to increasingly higher project costs; but partners’, associates’, directors’, and architects’ pay have all increased by higher margins. Fee stagnation affects the lowest paid – architectural assistants and admin workers – the most.
Taking effect from January 1st 2018, the Royal Institute of British Architects has stipulated that RIBA Chartered Practices must pay all of their staff [London] Living Wage. This extends existing the [London] Living Wage coverage of “students undertaking practical training (PEDR)”, established January 1st 2016, to include all staff*, including freelancers. [*It is unclear whether this also includes outsourced workers, such as cleaners. To be officially accredited as a Living Wage Employer, all outsourced staff who work on the premises for more than 2 hours a day must be covered.]
How are RIBA going to enforce their new clause? The onus is put on the employee willing to report their practice for misconduct. Only 4 years ago RIBA had to be told that unpaid internships were still commonplace. Even since the 2016 incorporation of the [London] Living Wage into RIBA Employment Policy, payment of the Living Wage is not guaranteed – it is still deemed ‘good practice’. Do the 5% of practices examined in its “random annual audit” consistently abide by the rules? When practices claim to be Living Wage employers, they rarely actually are. A key principle of the Living Wage is that it is paid for all hours worked. From our ongoing survey of workers’ experiences in architecture practice, regular overtime ranges from 8h to 60h a week. The industry is propped up by the notion that overtime ‘doesn’t count’.
This attitude encourages a workplace where employees, particularly architectural assistants, are seen as expendable and easily replaced. The devaluing of work, coupled with overwork, also dis-empowers workers from having any claims on the nature of their of work, and how the practice is run. We demand a fair wage that goes beyond the ‘minimum’, alongside greater worker control of all aspects of the architecture industry.
So, what can you do about it? Take our survey. Record your hours minute-by-minute, including any work you do in your unpaid/paid breaks. Record what tasks you are asked to complete in your working and ‘non-working’ hours. Record stories of abuse and exploitation that affect you and others. Question TOIL (time off in lieu) policies: many practices only accept TOIL above a threshold of +10-15h a week; meaning that unpaid overtime is contractually defined as usual, expected, and regular. Calculate what your actual hourly rate is, and compare it to the [London] Living Wage hourly rate: £10.20/£8.75 (London/rest of UK). Turn these observations into the basis for action. And remember, our voices are stronger when they are united.
What is your real hourly rate, and how does it compare to the [London] Living Wage?
London, 40h week, Living Wage Hourly Rate + paid overtime:
09:00-18:00, Monday-Friday, 1h unpaid lunch daily = £21,216/year, £408/week, £10.20/hour
+8 hours overtime = +£81.60/week
This is equivalent to an extra paid 8h day of work a week, a 20% pay rise, and £4,243.20 extra a year. If you are not paid overtime then your hourly rate is £8.50
+60 hours overtime = +£612/week
This is equivalent to an extra 7.5x 8h days of work a week, a 150% pay rise, and £31,824 extra a year. If you are not paid overtime then your hourly rate is £4.08
Rest of the UK, 40h week, Living Wage Hourly Rate + paid overtime:
09:00 – 18:00, Monday-Friday, 1h unpaid lunch daily = £18,200/year, £350/week, £8.75/hour
+8 hours overtime = +£70/week. This is equivalent to an extra paid 8h day of work a week, a 20% pay rise, and £3,640.00 extra a year. If you are not paid overtime then your hourly rate is £7.29
+ 60 hours overtime = +£525/week. This is equivalent to an extra 7.5x 8h days of work a week, a 150% pay rise, and £27,300.00 extra a year. If you are not paid overtime then your hourly rate is £3.50