The National Living Wage will lead to more pub closures

By William Lees-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

William Lees-Jones: "My prediction will be that this will lead to prices going up which will lead to more pub closures."
William Lees-Jones: "My prediction will be that this will lead to prices going up which will lead to more pub closures."

Related tags Minimum wage Jw lees

When George Osborne announced the introduction of the National Living Wage in July he surprised everybody. It came out of the blue and was a shameless political coup from a recently-elected government aimed at scoring points over other political parties.

JW Lees pays the minimum wage to colleagues when they start working in our pubs. Is this something to be proud of? Well, yes it is – because these are entry-level jobs and the key is that people then progress with training and promotion. Our record time from minimum wage glass collector to pub manager is 22 months and that is something to celebrate.

We are also super-proud that every colleague can earn a profit share when things go well and that colleagues working in our pubs get to keep all of their hard-earned tips. Are we going to incorporate this pay into hourly rates? I sincerely hope not.

We are always looking for high quality people who can join JW Lees and this has resulted in us employing colleagues not just from other EC countries but also ex-offenders when they first come out of prison. And lower pay means that we can invest more in training and have a few extra people rather than cut staffing to the bone.

The hospitality sector is hard work and the pay starts out at basic but this is more than made up for by flexible hours, the opportunity to progress and the vicinity of the workplace to home.

Companies will now publicly talk about how they will pay staff more and that talent will be rewarded - but that is nonsense: my 19-year-old son just completed a six-month placement at a well-known West End five star hotel where not only was the pay limited to the minimum wage but the hours and split shifts were punishing. He loved it and there was a long queue of people wanting to fill vacant positions. He was there to learn and it was a bonus that he was being paid: a more cynical employer may now put him on an unpaid internship.

Like many politically motivated decisions, the Chancellor should be wary of the unintended consequences of his vote-winning policy. In fact he’s made the decision worse by saying that it will go up to £9 per hour by 2020 so that he cannot even assess how it’s progressing and change future policy accordingly. Why not see how it goes and then temper future announcements?

My prediction will be that this will lead to prices going up which will lead to more pub closures, more cheap supermarket booze, more companies employing those aged under 25, the enforced retirement of colleagues who have slowed down a little, as well as more automation where possible, but a boom time for IT companies who can help optimise staffing rotas and operating efficiencies.

Politicians, eh? No matter who you vote for the Government always gets in.

William Lees-Jones is managing director of JW Lees

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