The minimum wage is to increase again in April — and the national living wage will also apply to younger people than ever before. H&H finds out what this will mean for the equestrian industry
EQUESTRIAN businesses have been warned to be prepared in advance as changes to the minimum and living wage come in next April.
The Government announced on 25 November that the national minimum wage will go up on 1 April by between 1.5% for 16- to 17-year-olds and 3.6% for apprentices. The national living wage is going up by 2.2%, and it is to be extended to 23- and 24-year-olds for the first time.
The equestrian industry has warned that, as so many people working with horses are in their early 20s, this will put huge strain on businesses already coping with the effects of the coronavirus.
“This could have big implications for the industry,” Equestrian Employers Association president Tullis Matson told H&H.
“Employers have to be aware of this and ready for it, as it’ll affect their top line.”
Mr Matson said employers will have to adapt their business strategies to cope with the increase as “this isn’t something they can’t do”.
“They have to be compliant with the law. As we know, although a lot of the industry is, a big part isn’t. Then, they fall foul for example with the furlough scheme; if they’re not doing it all by the books, something like that will show it up.”
Mr Matson has long pushed back against the belief that working with horses is a “way of life” and so being paid a decent wage is not as important.
“It should be a way of living,” he said. “It’s great if you love your job but that shouldn’t be instead of being paid a proper wage; like every other industry.”
Mr Matson said employers may well have to put up prices, such as for livery and lessons, to deal with the increase.
“Clients have to understand they’re paying for a service, and people at the other end have to live, and make a profit,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the end user will have to fund this, not the Government. Employers have to be realistic about what they charge; we can’t expect people to work for nothing if we want to be credible as an industry. We have to pay our way and charge accordingly.”
HELEN WILLIAMS, finance director of the Wellington Estate in Hampshire, told H&H pressure from the Government over wages is one of the biggest challenges in running an equestrian centre such as livery yard, riding school and competition venue Wellington Riding.
“It makes it incredibly hard to keep things going,” she said. “The minimum wage went up last April; despite the fact we were in lockdown and most other pay reviews were suspended, those wages went up. Now they’ve announced one for next April, when hardly anyone else is having a raise.”
Ms Williams pointed out that increasing the minimum wage also closes the gap between that and those on higher salaries, and puts pressure on bosses to increase those, too.
She added: “A 23- or 24-year-old is going to get an 8.6% increase in April, when we’re in a pandemic and no one else is having a pay rise. I don’t see how the Government can justify it.”
She added that every year, Wellington has to put its prices up to deal with minimum wage increases.
“People might think increasing wages for lower-paid workers is great, but ultimately it has to be funded through increased revenue which simply means price rises”.
A spokesman for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy told H&H: “The living and minimum wage have increased every year since their introduction – and this extraordinary year is no exception.
“We want to support low-paid workers with a real-terms pay rise and protect their standards of living, without presenting a significant risk to employment prospects.”
The department declined to comment on the age reduction for the living wage.
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