23 November 2016

downing street

It’s almost time for the new government’s first big economic event – the Autumn Statement, but if you ask me, it can’t come soon enough.

Nobody knows exactly what the Chancellor will discuss, but in my opinion, clarification and assurance are just what British business needs right now.

One of the big talking points in the run-up to the Statement has been the decrease of so-called ‘real’ wages – the increase of wages compared to the cost of living.

Over recent years, average real wages in the UK have risen by an average of 1.3% a year and they have still not returned to their 2008 peak.

This means that a growing number of families are no longer able to save or plan for the future. They are simply managing. I was reading an article in the Financial Times earlier this week which mentioned the term ‘jams’ – often used in Whitehall to describe people who are standing still financially.

How terrible a phrase is that? These are hard-working families who, for many different reasons, are struggling to make ends meet. Calling them ‘jams’ makes it sound like they are simply a block in the economy, while they are actually the ones fuelling it!

In my opinion, it’s incredibly concerning that young families can no longer expect to do as well as their parents’ generation; that they are in position where they are wrong to expect financial growth and easing over time. How did we end up at a point where social mobility is decreasing, rather than forwards?

It’s definitely too big a question for me to provide all the answers for, but I do believe business owners like me have to take some responsibility in providing fair wages for the private sector.

At UKFast we have given a minimum of 5% increase on wages year-on-year to our entire team, but if we were to calculate it, the average of this would invariably be even higher as many people receive increases higher than the minimum throughout the course of the year. In my opinion, this rise is fair for the team to expect and paying it makes complete business sense.

Some business leaders might think that with the increased uncertainty after Brexit and the American elections, it would be a wise decision to freeze pay to see what 2017 holds. But with this, they risk losing the talent that has made their business a success.

I would hate for any of my team to feel like they are just standing still. I want people to feel like they are on a journey that rewards them for their hard work, both in terms of wages and professional growth.

When people struggle to get by while working a full-time job, it invariably affects their ambition and happiness at work. Struggling is stifling. It stifles productivity and creativity. It stifles the economy as a whole.

What do you think?

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