Independent retailer Oliver Bonas has become the first UK high street employer to bring the living wage into force.

From today, the business will pay its staff a minimum of £9.15 an hour in London, and £7.85 outside. It employs 500 staff across 43 stores, 35 of which are in London, as well as its warehouse and head office.

Oliver Bonas is the first British retailer to implement the living wage called for by the Living Wage Foundation.

Last week Sainsbury’s pledged to pay its 137,000 store staff more than the Government’s national living wage, starting on August 30. The supermarket chain employs more than 40,000 staff under 25. In July Swedish furniture giant Ikea pledged to pay its 9,000 UK staff a living wage from April 1, 2016.

The independent living wage is set by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University and is based on the actual cost of living. A separate London rate is calculated by the Greater London Authority.

Both are significantly higher than Chancellor George Osborne’s national living wage of £7.20, being introduced in April next year.

All Oliver Bonas staff over 18 will receive the new wage, while Osborne’s proposals only apply to over 25s.

Example for the high street

Oliver Bonas managing director and founder Oliver Tress decided to bring in the living wage because the company was financially able to do so.

He said: “It is exciting to be the first retailer on the high street to make this commitment. This is a direct result of the hard work of our team, helping us to grow the business over the last 20 years. We hope it also encourages more people to come and work with us here at Oliver Bonas in the future.”

The retailer aims to set an example for the rest of the high street.

Living Wage Foundation director Rhys Moore said: “Major players in the retail sector have for a long time claimed that the living wage is too expensive to implement on the high street. We hope that both staff and customers will support the leadership Oliver Bonas is showing in its commitment to help end the low wage culture of the British high street.”