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‘Most’ employers support increase in minimum wage, research finds

New research shows there is broad employer support for further increases to the minimum wage in the coming years, but that government must help businesses to adapt to a higher wage floor.

The report by the Learning and Work Institute, which was based on a survey of over 1,000 businesses conducted at the outset of the coronavirus crisis, shows that over half (54%) support the UK government’s policy of increasing the national living wage to two-thirds of median income by 2024.

Additionally, there was more concern among the employers that would be most impacted by an increase in the minimum wage, and among the sectors hit hardest by coronavirus.

Over half (55%) of employers with higher levels of low pay said the planned increase in the minimum wage would have a negative impact on their business, nearly double the figure for all employers (29%).

Employers in hard hit sectors such as hospitality (41%) and retail (38%) were also more likely to fear a negative impact on their business.

While half (50%) of businesses said that they would not need to do anything to respond to a higher minimum wage, some employers said they would have to make changes which could have implications for consumers and workers:

  • 22% of businesses said they would pass the cost on to consumers
  • 15% would hire fewer members of staff
  • 10% would increase the use of temporary or flexible contracts
  • 10% would also reduce staff benefits such as bonuses, breaks and discounts

Most employers believe additional government support would be necessary to help them manage an increase in the minimum wage.

The most popular measure was additional help to invest in skills and training (supported by 37% of employers) followed by a temporary reduction in national insurance contributions (33%). Just one in six (17%) said the government should not provide any support to employers.

Joe Dromey, deputy director for research and development at Learning and Work Institute, said: “Increasing the minimum wage could eradicate low pay, and help to tackle in-work poverty.

“Our research has shown that not only is a higher minimum wage popular among workers – it is supported by most employers too. The government can still deliver on their commitment to increase the minimum wage. But with higher unemployment as a result of the coronavirus crisis, we need to ensure that employers are supported to adapt.”

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