Large corporates are not on board with paying staff the living wage and only one public company listed on the NZX currently is.

Vector is the only NZX-listed company to pay its staff the living wage of $20.55 an hour and one of just two considered corporates on board, alongside Tuaropaki Trust.

Mainfreight pays its staff more than the living wage, according to its annual report.

In a statement, Fonterra said it was commited to paying its staff fairly and reasonably, and that it was assessing whether to pay the living wage.

Advertisement

Living Wage Movement Aotearoa NZ convenor Annie Newman said many large firms do not meet the living wage requirements as they did not pay their contract workers, "who work for them on a regular and ongoing basis", a living wage, among other occurances.

"A lot of companies are picking and choosing what they think makes them a living wage employer," Newman said.

"Employers drove us to create an accreditation system rather sooner than we wanted to because.... they weren't really doing it."

A total of 100 accredited businesses pay the living wage, most small to medium-sized enterprises.

Newman said Living Wage Movement Aotearoa NZ had contacted the big companies multiple times to become accredited and only one responded.

The Government last week announced 2000 of its lowest earners would get a pay boost and receive an hourly rate of $20.55, or $42,744 annually, from September.

Minister of State Services Chris Hipkins said the move to pay staff the living wage would benefit those working in administration and clerical roles, welfare workers, contact centre workers and assistant customs officers.

"This decision is about supporting fair pay and employment conditions for a decent standard of living for all New Zealanders," Hipkins said.

"Government strongly believes that every worker should be in a situation where the pay they receive means they can at least make ends meet."

Newman said the momentum of businesses offering a living wage was building.

"Over 600,000 workers are on below the living wage and what that means is that over 600,000 workers are struggling just to juggle the basics in life," she said.

"I think there's a recognition among New Zealand businesses and most are saying they are doing this because it's the right thing to do.

"Once they come on board in retrospect they say 'not only was it the right thing to do but it's actually worked for us, it's been a good business decision'."

But Newman said corporate businesses should be paving the way as they had the ability to set remuneration standards.

"You can pay, you can make a difference, you can set an example for others and this is well within your financial capabilities," she said.

"Corporates respond to where public opinion sits and I think we're seeing a shift in public opinion, and we're getting to a critical tipping point in the number of businesses talking about it."

Chloe and Florence van Dyke, founders of beverage company Chia. Photo / Supplied
Chloe and Florence van Dyke, founders of beverage company Chia. Photo / Supplied

The living wage was set at $20.55 earlier in the year, a rise of 1.7 per cent from $20.20 last year, which will come into effect from September.

Chloe van Dyke, co-founder of Nelson-based beverage company Chia, said her company had always paid its staff the living wage but became accredited as she felt it was an "important issue to make a stand on".

"We want to be a part of the change we want to see in the world and as an employer we want to play an active part in the community that we were lucky enough to have started a business in," van Dyke said.

"When employees feel valued they are more committed and excited to be part of a company and the flow-on effect of that is huge."

Van Dyke, whose company employs seven staffers, said she believed so few companies paid a living wage as they found it hard to see the benefits.

"The bigger the company the more removed the employer is from the employee so it's harder to see that whereas we're working with our employees every day and it's very easy to see the positive impact the living wage can bring to the entire team."

Vector chief executive Simon Mackenzie said the public company made the move to pay a living wage as it was focused on ensuring fair remuneration.

"It's about those at the lower paid end of our workforce and paying a sufficient income to them to ensure an adequate standard of living and the ability to fully participate in society," Mackenzie said.

"As a Kiwi employer with staff up and down the country, paying a living wage is one way we can help address those concerns."