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By Adam Uzialko, Updated Jan 23, 2023

Employees who earn enough to get by improve performance and overall business.

Paying a “living wage” requires more than just meeting state and federal minimum wage requirements. Living in certain communities is more expensive and requires people to earn more to sustain basic life necessities. ...

“When you’re setting something like the federal minimum wage, you want to consider the averages,” said Holly Sklar, CEO of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, an advocacy group that supports gradually raising the floor. “When talking federally, it’s a floor that’s adequate for the country as a whole. When you’re talking about an individual, or city, or a state, you look closer to home to determine what is living wage.”

How do you determine your region’s living wage?

If a business owner wants to offer a living wage to their employees, they have a handy tool to determine the right number. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed a living wage calculator that covers every county in every U.S. state. The calculator shows the living wage for households of varying sizes as well as the local poverty and minimum wages. ...

Offer a living wage to benefit businesses and the economy. 

Sklar and her organization believe offering a living wage (and indeed raising the mandated minimum wage) will yield the most positive outcomes for individual businesses and the economy at large. 

Sklar points to the long-term benefits of paying employees more [such as] retaining employees, boosting morale and increasing long-term productivity.

“One of the things our business members stress is looking at the whole picture,” Sklar said. “Low pay often means high turnover, and with a reduced turnover [due to higher pay], businesses often see substantial savings in recruiting and training costs. There are also savings from managers able to spend time on more productive tasks, as well as less product waste through lower error and accident rates.”

Sklar added that customer service tends to be significantly better when wages are higher, resulting in a happier, more loyal customer base.

“We know that frontline employees often make the difference between repeat customers and lost business,” she said. ...

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