28 August 2016

pay riseAre you happy with the money you earn for the job that you do? Is the minimum wage enough? Is the living wage set to destroy businesses?

More than one in five people in Britain are classed as ‘low paid’ – that’s around 22%, compared to 6% in France and 3% in Sweden. And shockingly, this figure hasn’t changed much in the past 30 years. Less than 50% of the British population earn more than £20,000 per year.

This week, a BBC Two show ‘asking can Britain have a payrise?’ aired, debating all aspects of pay in the UK with 100 people.

I was fortunate to be one of the 100, each of whom represented an area of the pay spectrum in the country. It was absolutely fascinating.

One of the biggest things that I took away from the debate was that as entrepreneurs we have to look to ourselves. We’re responsible for the people we employ and we have a huge effect on our team’s lives. We spend a third of our lives at work, why should that be a miserable experience?

For me, work should be a place where you feel happy; you are surrounded by a community of supportive colleagues and you should feel that you’re fairly treated and compensated for your time and effort. Whilst, of course, you can’t actually please everyone, I certainly won’t stop trying my best to achieve just that.

I have always said that when it comes to the controversial topic of wages, the entrepreneur or business leader should always look to themselves. What car do you drive? What holidays do you go on?

Whilst I am well paid and comfortable, I hope that my team feel the same way. We have given a company-wide 5% pay rise every year for the past decade or more and after ten years on the team our employees receive a £10,000 cheque, on which I pay the tax personally. Additionally, after five years in the team, the team get £1,000 tax paid and in the year that you get married, you’re given an extra week’s holiday.

The question of how much the boss should be paid came to light on several occasions during the show, with one person calling for people to distinguish between entrepreneurs and corporate executives. Entrepreneurs are taking a lot of risk and personal investment which many of the panel said should reap a high reward. However, I can’t agree that corporate ‘fat cats’ as they were called should not receive a good wage. Not all of them, as claimed in the debate are ‘sitting at a desk doing nothing all day’. Some of these people have extraordinary skills that warrant this higher pay packet – they’re making a big difference on the world.

That being said, without a doubt, there should be correlation between the amount paid at the lower end of the scale and the amount paid at the top. Under no circumstance should the person being paid the least have to sacrifice anything for the sake of the salary of those at the top.

When Gail and I first set UKFast up, we lived on porridge for months at a time to ensure that our team were paid and had the equipment that they needed.

Investigating this topic, presenter Steph McGovern visited two Manchester businesses. One of which – Fiona, who runs a cleaning and maintenance company – had increased wages to above the living wage. The other – Sunil, who owns a chain of shops – said that he didn’t know how they would cope or where the money would come from.

Sunil was sitting within the sector of the top 10% of earners so I had to ask the question about his lifestyle – fairly or otherwise. The question was avoided to some extent, but he did say that he takes the business books into his stores to show the team. Unfortunately, he is paying the team more per hour but has cut hours available to the team. According to the team, this has meant that they don’t have a proper break and are worse off than before.

This is such a shame.

Whilst I appreciate that it can be difficult to raise wages to such an extent, we also have to recognise that a business is built by its team. I also understand that there are areas of the way that I do business, especially when it comes to the team, that accountants simply don’t understand. So in monetary terms there are huge costs in losing people and having to recruit, train and develop replacements.

I know that UKFast is in the position that it is in today because we have an incredible team of passionate and motivated people and I am grateful to them every single day.

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