Business groups including the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the National Farmers Union (NFU) have written jointly to new Business Secretary, Greg Clark, urging him to reconsider ‘ambitious’ targets for the National Living Wage (NLW).
At least 16 trade associations have recommended that Mr Clark “exercise caution” and would ideally like the Government to drop the current target, which could see National Living Wage rise from its current hourly rate of £7.20 to around £9 by 2020.
The National Living Wage was introduced in April 2016 and is paid to workers aged 25 and over. If current targets are met by 2020, the NLW will represent one of the highest minimum wages in the G7.
They have also called for the restoration of the original powers of the Low Pay Commission (LPC), the independent committee that recommends minimum wage rates every year. The original remit of the LPC was to recommend minimum wage increases that went as far as possible without costing jobs.
However, its new task is to ensure that the rate reaches 60 per cent of median earnings by 2020, “subject to economic growth”.
The letter argues that in light of the “economic uncertainties the country faces” following the vote to leave the EU, firms might find themselves unable to support such a rise.
Despite the pressure however, the Government is expected to proceed with current plans, with a Treasury spokesman saying that it is committed to building an economy that “works for all”, meaning both employers and employees.