Front of house staff at 4 in 10 cultural venues are paid less than real Living Wage, finds survey

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24th October 2019 14:32 - Museums, Libraries and Archives

Front of house staff at 4 in 10 cultural venues are paid less than real Living Wage: A survey to provide insight into the ‘strategic decision-making processes’ at UK cultural attractions suggests that 39% of museums, galleries and visitor attractions pay their front of house staff a wage that equates to less than a 'living wage'.

The research, conducted by the Visitor Experience Forum along with BOP Consulting, polled 140 cultural organisations in the UK and found that 9% paid staff working across its front-of-house positions (including museum shop workers, admissions, ticket clerks and security staff) the legal minimum wage, currently set at £8. 21 (*for those aged over 25, and £7.70 for those aged 21 -24 years). 

The survey found that three in ten organisations (30%) paid more than this - although not enough to take staff wages up to the real Living Wage - the UK's only rate taking into consideration real living costs in London and the rest of the UK. Currently, the rate for the real Living Wage is £9 rising to £10.55 in London (for all workers, aged 18 and over). According to the Real Living Wage website, this rate is paid voluntarily by over 5,000 UK businesses.

According to the research, around 45% of the organisations polled pay their front of house staff the Living Wage, while 15% reported paying them upward of this. 

HR Challenges

The survey also looked at HR challenges faced by organisations, with a fifth of those polled (20%) saying staff retention was a top issue, as well as changes owing to the wider socio-political landscape, including Brexit - also 20%. Moving from casual to longer-term contracts was also cited (15%) as well as a lack of volunteers (13%), training and development (13%), lack of workforce diversity (11%) and low wages (11%). Other challenges mentioned were staff recruitment (11%), getting staff on board and motivating them (5%) and the development of volunteer strategies (3%). 

General challenges

Looking at wider challenges faced by organisations, 53% of respondents said that staff costs were anticipated as a concern for their department over the next 12 months, as well as meeting visitors' expectations (34%), the weather (34%) and capital investment/finance (31%). Almost three in ten were anticipating capacity management challenges (28%), while a quarter (25%) expect to have challenges around growing audiences and ticketed events (25%). Just over a fifth anticipate a facilities upgrade (22%), while 19% expect recruitment challenges and 16% predict issues due to Brexit. Other challenges cited included sales and marketing resources and overhead costs (both 13%) 

When it comes to career opportunities, almost seven in ten staff polled said they had received some training in the last 12 months, although 13% said training and development were a key challenge for the sector. 

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