The government is being urged to freeze the national minimum wage next year as retailers warn they can’t cope with this year’s increase. On Wednesday, the minimum wage for adult workers rose by 21p to £5.73, putting further pressure on retailers already struggling with soaring food, energy and petrol prices. The ACS is to lobby the Low Pay Commission, which advises the Government, to leave it at its current level next year.

“We are asking the Low Pay Commission to provide evidence an increase is necessary,” said CEO James Lowman. “Our members are facing costs such as extra holiday pay and compulsory pension contributions. A further increase would be difficult to bear.”

The British Retail Consortium is also to appeal to the Low Pay Commission. “We are calling for the minimum wage to be more closely linked with average earnings,” said a spokesman. “The increases have been well above average earnings since it was introduced.”

Unions claim the increase is necessary to help workers cope with rising household bills.

“While we welcome a 3.8% increase, we are aware of the difficult economic climate,” said John Hannett, general secretary of Usdaw. “Therefore, we will present an evidence-based argument to the Low Pay Commission for further improvements.”