EMPLOYERS have been urged to pay their workers the 'living wage' – as it emerged just 39 businesses in Oxfordshire do so.

Oxford City Council and Oxford University, along with 12 of its colleges, pay the £8.45-an-hour recommended by charity the Living Wage Foundation.

But Oxford East MP Anneliese Dodds said it is vital others join in.

Ms Dodds said: “The Oxford living wage has been proven to benefit workers, employers and the local economy.

"Employers are finding that the living wage has improved their staff’s quality of work and lowered absenteeism.

"Living wage employers have also found increased consumer awareness of their organisation’s commitment to be an ethical employer.

“If more workers were paid a living wage in Oxford, it would go a long way to helping solve other problems.

"The cost of rent in Oxford can make living here unaffordable, especially for key workers, and an increase in the number of employers paying the living wage would go a long way towards solving this.”

The Living Wage Foundation says £8.45-an-hour – which guarantees full-time workers an annual salary of £16,697 – is the minimum amount needed to live in England.

By contrast the National Living Wage set by the Government for over-25s is £7.50-an-hour.

Hair stylists Anne Veck Salons, which employs 20 people on two sites in Oxford and Bicester, pays the higher level living wage.

Director Keith Mellen said: “The reason we do it is we aim to be a good employer, apart from it being the right thing to do.

“If you offer decent wages we are likely to get higher standard of candidate and we will be able to keep them for longer.

"The business reality is that most people we employ are highly qualified and are paid much more.”

The head of marketing at Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce, Ginette Gower, said: “Raising the living wage will mean small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have more costs, which may stunt company growth while the economy re-stabilises.

"This may explain the lack of take up in Oxfordshire and other areas of the Thames Valley.

"In advance of this year’s Autumn Budget, we hope that we see an assistance package for new small businesses who may not be used to this changing environment.”

Living Wage Foundation director, Katherine Chapman, said: “The Living Wage Foundation believes that a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.

"With inflation rising higher than wages, people are struggling to make ends meet and those in low paid jobs are really feeling the squeeze."