By Heather Cameron
Britain’s bosses have been urged by the government to prepare early for the introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW) in April next year.
Firms are advised to follow four simple steps:
- know the correct rate of pay – £7.20 per hour for staff aged 25 and over
- find out which staff are eligible for the new rate
- update the company payroll in time for 1 April 2016
- communicate the changes to staff as soon as possible
This push coincides with a new poll revealing that 93% of bosses support the Living Wage initiative, with a majority believing it will boost productivity and retain staff.
This is supported by new research by the University of Strathclyde and the Living Wage Foundation (LWF), which uses real-life case studies and evidence from employees working for accredited Living Wage employers. It suggests that paying staff a living wage leads to many business benefits – such as staff retention, more efficient business processes, improved absenteeism and better staff performance.
Many of the findings highlighted relate to research on the London Living Wage (LLW). Among these include:
- 50.3% of employees receiving the LLW registered above average scores for psychological wellbeing, a sign of good morale, compared to just 33.9% of non-LLW employees studied
- an average 25% reduction in staff turnover was reported for organisations moving to the LLW
- and 70% of employers studied reported reputational benefits through increased consumer awareness of their commitment to being an ethical employer
Estimates show that 4.5 million employees will see a rise in their wages as a result of the introduction of the NLW in 2016, with a further 2.6 million gaining from spillovers. By 2020, 6 million employees are predicted to have received a pay increase.
Up to one in four workers are expected to experience a significant positive impact from the NLW. If the result is indeed a happier workforce, perhaps the knock-on effect for businesses will be improved productivity.
There will however be variation across different parts of the UK and across different households, depending on how the NLW interacts with the tax and benefit system (it should be noted that many estimates were made prior to the u-turn on welfare reform). And let’s not forget that the NLW is not for all as under-25s will not be eligible.
Costs to employers
The impact on employees and therefore employment generally, will also depend on the actions firms take to prepare for the NLW in order to mitigate costs.
Indeed, the research from Strathclyde and LWF recognises that implementing the NLW will inevitably involve initial costs to businesses and could represent an issue for some companies more than others.
According to the Federation for Small Businesses, a negative impact on business is expected by 38% of small employers, with many expected to slow their hiring and raise prices.
It has been estimated that the NLW may lead to an increase in the unemployment rate by 0.2% points in 2020; resulting in around 60,000 more people unemployed and total hours worked per week across the economy around 4 million lower.
Businesses may also look to employ those under the age of 25 who won’t be eligible for the NLW. This could particularly impact on those sectors with a high proportion of lower paid employees, such as social care – a sector that is already under financial pressure.
The roll out of the Living Wage has certainly raised concern over potential costs for councils, which are having to deal with increasing budget cuts. The Local Government Association (LGA) has estimated that the NLW could cost local authorities £1bn a year by 2020/21.
So while increasing wages for low paid workers may seem like a no-brainer in the bid to help reduce in-work poverty, the full impact on employees, employers and therefore the economy, remains uncertain. Only time will tell what the true impact of the NLW will be.
Further reading: if you liked this blog post, you might also want to read our previous blog on the Living Wage.
Our popular Ask-a-Researcher enquiry service is one aspect of the Idox Information Service, which we provide to members in organisations across the UK to keep them informed on the latest research and evidence on public and social policy issues. To find out more on how to become a member, get in touch.
Follow us on Twitter to see what developments in policy and practice are interesting our research team.