Equestrian employees aged 25 and over on the minimum wage will be entitled to a pay rise from today (1 April).
The minimum wage for all over 25s (except those in the first year of an apprenticeship) is rising from £6.70 to £7.20 an hour — an increase of 50p.
Lucy Katan, of the British Grooms Association (BGA), stressed this new “national living wage” is a legal requirement, and employers need to be prepared.
“That is going to have an impact on the employer’s business costings,” she told H&H.
“The only option for some businesses will be to increase the amount they charge for [their services]”.
Ms Katan also voiced her concern that the industry may become an “unfair employer”, preferring younger staff.
“Having said that, grooms are highly skilled individuals who work exceptionally hard and should be paid fairly,” she said.
“They should be rewarded with their salary for their dedication and skill.”
Eventer Kelly McCarthy-Maine currently employs one full-time and one part-time member of staff.
“It is a tough job — the hours are long and it takes commitment,” she said.
“But it is a professional role, so that should be recognised and employees should be rewarded.”
She added you “cannot put a price” on having the right person, but expects commitment to the job.
Simon Hall, who pays a freelance groom at his private yard, said he is “all for it” and that employees deserve to be rewarded for their work.
“You pay for what you get,” he said.
Mr Hall added that the way employees will be rewarded, in terms of money and other benefits, needs to be set out in a written contract, not verbally.
Meanwhile, racing has its own scales of pay for stable staff in line with government requirements.
The rise means the bottom-line of pay for racing staff on levels one to three (trainees, improvers and riders, grooms or yard staff) will be £288 for a basic 40-hour week compared to the current £268.
Staff aged 25 and over working on a consolidated rota — which is already over the minimum wage — will also receive a pay rise.
It also affects overtime payments for time worked away from the yard, for example when staff are at race meetings.
George McGrath, of the National Association of Stable Staff (NASS), said the living wage is a “good thing”, but there are “dark clouds” around the issue.
“I feel it is somewhat disappointing that racing has to have the government tell it that it is not paying its members enough,” he said.
“I would have hoped racing could have seen the work the lads do is worth more than the national minimum wage.”
He added he does also acknowledge the majority of the industry pays above the minimum and would advocate that a career in racing is a good way of life.
A spokesman from the British Horseracing Authority added: “While we are aware that staff wages in racing are, generally, higher than in other equine industries we would welcome anything that helps provide more funding to our grassroots.”
He said the BHA is working with the NASS to provide better career prospects and progression for those employed in the sport.
Ref: H&H 31 March, 2016