Retailers are bracing themselves for another hike in the minimum wage after the government rubber-stamped the latest recommendations from the Low Pay Commission.

In October the hourly adult rate will increase from £5.05 to £5.35 and 18- to 21-year-olds must not be paid less than £4.45. There will also be a rise of 30p for 16- to 17-year-olds to £3.30 an hour.

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) was first introduced in 1999 when workers over the age of 22 had to be paid at least £3.60 an hour. The most recent increase came in October 2005 with the adult hourly rate rising 20p from £4.85 to £5.05.

Many retailers now feel the rate is rising too quickly and fear they will have to cut back staff hours to cope with the wage increase.

Steve Moore, who runs two Spar stores in Stafford, said: “There should be a different rate for the independent sector as it is not in a healthy enough position to continue to cope with rises. The increases are getting beyond a joke - we’ve had no increase in sales but we’re being forced to increase wages. I’m likely to have to cut back some hours but it comes to a point when you can’t reduce levels any further.”

Essex retailer David Patient of Nearbuys said: “Although I already pay above the minimum wage another increase will still hit us as it will have a knock-on effect. The rises seem to keep coming, year after year. I agree with the principle of the minimum wage but the government is not making life any easier for us.”

However, fellow Essex retailer Richard Hipkin expressed a different opinion. He said: “I would encourage retailers to pay their staff more, although it’s probably not the majority view. None of my employees is on less than £7 an hour and I rely on quality rather than quantity of staff. As a result, my staff retention rate is very high.”

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