Riah is a member of the Better Work Network’s lived experience group. Read about their reflections joining the group and the difference they hope sharing their experience of work can make.
I have been living in London for around 18 years now – before then I lived in Eritrea in East Africa. I’m a single parent, living with my three children. I really like living in London, with all the different people and cultures.
I’ve been in my current job in retail for nearly two years. I work part-time because of childcare commitments. I’ve had a lot of issues with my manager, such as them not being flexible with my childcare responsibilities, not letting me take my annual leave and not paying me the sick pay I’m entitled to. The response I get from my manager is ‘if this doesn’t suit you, you have to leave’. But I can’t leave just like that. I have a family to support, and it’s especially difficult now with everything being so expensive.
I joined the Better Work Network Lived Experience Group a year ago. Before this, I had never been involved in something like this. I joined to share my experience of the cost of living crisis and share how it has affected people like me. At first, I did feel a bit shy, as I worried my English would hold me back. But I tried my best to make sure my voice was heard.
We have covered lots of different topics – we’ve discussed the cost-of-living crisis, employee rights, health at work, and lots more. I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people and share our experience of the issues we’re facing, getting information about avenues for support and cost cutting tips from other members, and hearing their ideas for the future. It has felt like therapy for me, talking about what’s happened and discussing possible ways to make it better.
It has been great to meet the others in similar situations. By yourself, it’s very easy to think, ‘Why? Why?’, but after speaking to others in the group, I know it’s not just me. Alone, people don’t hear us, it feels like they don’t care about us. But together, we can grow our voice so that the government knows people like us are suffering.
The Better Work Network is a policy and practice-based initiative, hosted by Learning and Work Institute and Trust for London, dedicated to supporting progression from low pay and increasing the quality of work for all.