National Living Wage

Time to pay more than just respect to workers

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Time to pay more than just respect to workers

Related tags: Minimum wage, British beer & pub association

The thorny issue of wages is rarely out of the headlines these days. But before we dive into the debate head first, I would urge caution.

Being a good employer is more than offering good wages, and we need to keep that in mind as we approach the increases to the national minimum wage or, as the Government is attempting to brand it, the national living wage.

We need to be careful about being drawn into a debate surrounding these issues or risk reinforcing that commonly held view that the pub sector is a low paid, stop-gap job and not one that offers great prospects.

William Lees-Jones makes some interesting points this week about why blanket increases are not going to help​.

He’s right on one level — the minimum wage does allow pubs to offer entry positions to more people — however, I would disagree with his view that paying the minimum wage is something to be proud of — paying the minimum is never going to set a benchmark.

Where we need to focus our energies is to ensure the opportunity to progress from that minimum is clear and well signposted and people understand that. Lees-Jones makes the point that he focuses on training and promotion from there — that’s something we need to be shouting loudly about.

We need to focus on the fact that the pub sector offers a great opportunity for a career — and those that do well upon that initial entry have a great opportunity to progress, earn more, learn more and have a rewarding path ahead of them.

If we get sucked into the argument against wages rising, we run the risk of having all the other opportunities a job in the sector offers being drowned out.

Elsewhere in the industry, the proposed shake-up of the business rate system is causing concern. While, as ever, issues like this can be a threat or opportunity, the largest worry is that with control being transferred to local authority level, pubs could end up caught in what is a bit of a postcode lottery situation.

Those that find themselves in enlightened, well-run areas, with a strong sense for the benefits that businesses such as pubs bring, will potentially benefit considerably from the rent revision.

Meanwhile, those who face a more challenging local environment, with councils looking to shore up shortfalls, could find themselves even further under the cosh.

The past activities of local authorities does not offer much comfort, as the British Beer & Pub Association points out. Councils have been able to offer rate relief but, to date, that has been focused on other sectors, with pubs largely missing out.

The biggest opportunity here is for the sector to tie in the two issues — let’s focus on campaigning to drive down business rates to give us the opportunity to offer those sustainable wage increases — with sustainable wage increases, offset by reduced business rates, we can continue to offer increased employment and better career prospects.

All we need is an enlightened and intelligent approach from local authorities. Oh, hang on...

Related topics: Training

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