News | Published November 03 2019

ONS report confirms earnings spike against Florence Roby warnings around minimum wage increase

An October annual survey by the Office for National Statistics has found the number of people classified as “low-paid” across the UK to be the lowest in recent history.

The report confirmed that there had been a 2.9 per cent jump in average weekly earnings over the past 12 months.

This was thanks in part to a 4.4 per cent spike under the low-paid earners category – up to a figure of £7.83 an hour.

ONS senior statistician Roger Smith said: “Earnings continued to increase in the latest year. In recent years this has been fastest among the lowest-paid occupations. However, taking inflation into account, real pay is still some way below its pre-crisis level.”

The report also saw the percentage of employees under the “low-paid” bracket reach the lowest level since the survey series began over 20 years ago.

Minimum wage increases will certainly be a point of discussion in the runup to the next general election, as both Labour and the Conservatives have pledged an increase.

Jeremy Corbyn has pledged an immediate increase to £10 an hour for everyone over 18, while the Tories have said they will raise the minimum wage to £10.50 by 2024.

The topic of wage increases is a familiar battleground for businesses like uniform designer and manufacturer Florence Roby. Director of the family-run firm, Steven Roby, told The Parliamentary Review that about the firm’s past experience of a minimum wage increase.

“In our experience, a minimum wage increase drives all wages up the wage rate scale, because employees want to retain parity… our experience demonstrates that negative fallout can occur,” Mr Roby said.

“When minimum wage increases are unsustainable, and we cannot raise prices or reduce other operating costs due to market conditions, the only option is to lay off staff.

“[In our case], running the business as a large-scale production company became unsustainable and we had to lay off 75 per cent of our manufacturing workforce.”

Florence Roby has since recovered from more difficult times, and according to Mr Roby, the company – which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year – is at the “peak of uniform design”.

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Authored by

Ross Hindle
Senior Editor
November 03 2019

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