Sainsbury’s is making its “biggest ever” investment in higher wages for staff, bringing its hourly pay rate up to at least £11 per hour.

Sainsbury’s will increase pay by a further £185m investment next month, following £20m in October, bringing the total to £205m.

The February rise, which has been brought forward a month, will benefit 127,000 hourly paid staff to the tune of 10% year on year as many consumers labour under the burden of the cost-of-living crisis.

Sainsbury’s said it recognised “the extraordinary hard work of colleagues” and the change makes it the ”largest supermarket to pay Living Wage wherever colleagues live in the country”. Sainsbury’s and stablemate Argos’ hourly retail colleague pay will increase from £10.25 to £11.00 per hour, and from £11.30 to £11.95 per hour in London.

Sainsbury’s chief executive Simon Roberts said: “We are acutely aware of how tough things are for millions of households this winter and we know that particularly after Christmas, budgets will be tighter than ever.

“As well as doing all we can to keep prices low for customers, it’s our job to support our colleagues as they face rising costs. That’s why we are bringing forward the increase and committing a total of £205m to increase pay to at least £11 per hour this year.

“We know that colleagues really appreciate having something to eat at work too, so we have also extended the provision of free food during shifts for an extra six months, as well as increasing colleague discount at Argos.

“This is a massive investment that reflects the real challenges our people are facing right now. I’m really pleased that the progress we are making against our strategy means that we can continue to prioritise investing in colleagues to reward them for the fantastic service they deliver every day.”

The initiative was welcomed by the shopworkers union Usdaw. National officer Dave Gill said: “We continue to work closely with Sainsbury’s on pay and these successive substantial increases make a significant difference to our members.

“With the cost of living continually rising, we have kept open our dialogue with Sainsbury’s and we are pleased the business has responded so positively. These unprecedented additional pay awards, along with free food and the additional discount, will be appreciated by our members.

“The scale of the financial challenges facing all workers is immense and there still needs to be significant interventions from the government. Even under their plan, energy prices will have still doubled in six months and look set to go higher. Along with other prices skyrocketing, the cost of living is simply unaffordable for far too many workers.”