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Industry waits for verdict on minimum wage

By Angela Frewin

The Low Pay Commission this week finished gathering evidence and will present its recommendations on a national minimum wage to the Government in May.

Monday was the final day of a round of informal oral hearings with employers, organisations and unions and included a joint presentation by the British Hospitality Association, the Brewers & Licensed Retailers Association and Business in Sport and Leisure.

BHA deputy chief executive Martin Couchman said the session had gone “extremely well”. He praised the professionalism of the Low Pay Commission officials, and said it had been “a well-conducted exercise”. But with a multitude of industries clamouring for special exemptions, he predicted the outcome would prove a compromise, with most industries unhappy with some elements.

Although the National Minimum Wage Bill ruled out regional variations, the BHA re-presented its belief that a blanket rate would badly affect lower-paid areas, such as the South-west, North-east, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

The bill may allow a lower rate for young people under 26.

The BHA continued its request for tips (at an hourly rate), accommodation (at £40 a week) and meals (at £1.50) to be included in the minimum wage. The T&G union has poured scorn on this view, arguing that accommodation is provided only because wages are so low, and tips are too variable to allow for a blanket arrangement.

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