The Morning Advertiser caught up with Amy Lamé at Mercato Metropolitano at Elephant & Castle in central London on 17 January.
The BBC Radio 6 DJ visited the food & drink marketplace after it earned the Mayor’s Good Work Standard’s Achievement level for championing sustainable growth and employee welfare.
NLW will increase to £11.44 in April, rising from its current level of £10.42. Staff aged 21 and 22 will also receive the NLW from spring, bringing almost 3m more people into the wage bracket.
This move has come under fire from industry officials who fear it could push businesses “over the edge”, adding fuel to the flames of inflation.
While Amy Lamé recognised the difficulties, she said it is important to recognise the needs of individuals and workers and ensure they’re paid properly for the work they do.
She said: “We have to recognise that it’s been really tough for businesses, particularly hospitality businesses. They were some of the first to close and last to reopen during Covid, and then they’ve been hit with an increase in energy costs and supply chains, and difficulty recruiting.
“But it’s important people are paid properly and paid well. So we obviously support the national living wage and support a London living wage.”
She also believes paying workers fairly can benefit business, citing Mercato Metropolitano as a prime example. “There are a number of people where who have set up micro-businesses that have then gone on to grow their business by paying decent wages,” she said.
The night czar added: “Everyone deserves to have a decent night’s pay for a decent night’s work, and that can help build a business not just in the short term, but in the longer term.
“So while it may benefit businesses to go low in the short term to save cash, actually, what are you investing in for the future of your workforce?”
Hospitality has faced issues retaining staff in the past, and Lamé said this could be due to the fact that it historically hasn’t paid as well as it could have done.
“We need to look at things like the National London Living Wage in order to make our workplaces fairer and more appealing,” she added.
This comes after BrewDog was criticised for dropping its pledge to pay staff the real living wage.
Lamé believes London Living Wage is really important for all types of businesses, including hospitality, health care and culture.
“It really helps bring up the earning of the very poorest, so when we’re looking after that sector, and ensuring they’re able to put food on the table, that they’re able to buy their kids shoes and travel to work, this is pretty basic stuff,” she said.
But she would also call on the Government to do more to encourage businesses to pay the London living wage.
This is because, she said, there is a gap between what the Government thinks is the base hourly wage and what people actually need to live.
UKHospitality (UKH) has called for Government support for hospitality businesses to help mitigate the difficulties of the NLW increase, including considering a lower rate of VAT.
For Lamé, there is a lot of support Government could give hospitality businesses it is not giving.
She said: “One is to actually engage with the, with the industry and to listen to and to take to heart the difficulties that they're facing and to work out practical solutions.
“The mayor and I continue to lobby the government on behalf of the hospitality industry and we work very closely with organisations like UKH, British Beer & Pub Association and others, to ensure the voices of businesses here in London are being heard at the highest level.”