cash money

As chancellor George Osborne declared in this week’s Budget the national minimum wage (NMW) would reach £8 by the end of the decade, c-store operators expressed dismay at the latest hike.

The government this week confirmed it had chosen to follow the Low Pay Commission’s recommendation and raise the adult rate of the NMW from £6.50 to £6.70 from 1 October - the largest real-term NMW increase since 2006.

The apprentice rate increase far exceeded the LPC recommendation - a 20% hike from £2.73 to £3.30 an hour compared with a recommendation of a 2.6% rise to £2.80.

Trade associations warned the hike could force independent retailers to axe jobs. The ACS said it was “disappointed” by an increase, “above inflation, above average earnings growth, and above public sector pay award levels”.

“Our research has clearly shown retailers have little choice but to reduce staff hours and delay further business investment when the minimum wage is increased,” said ACS CEO James Lowman.

The Rural Shops Alliance said the increase was “unwelcome, increasing costs for many employers. Over recent years, the government has been progressively increasing the cost to employers of sustaining jobs,” said CEO Ken Parsons. “They have increased holiday entitlement, maternity pay, made employers fully responsible for the cost of statutory sick pay and introduced a whole new pension entitlement with automatic enrolment.”

National Federation of Retail Newsagents president Martyn Brown, meanwhile, warned independent retailers “could no longer absorb the mounting overheads being enforced on them. We fear this decision will lead to an escalation in retailers who can no longer afford the running costs of their shop.”