Hackney business owners split over new ‘National Living Wage’

Earning the London Living Wage: A barista at BL_NK in Curtain Road (Picture: Valerie Browne)

Earning the London Living Wage: A barista at BL_NK in Curtain Road (Picture: Valerie Browne) - Credit: Archant

Hackney’s small business owners are divided over George Osborne’s new “national living wage”, brought into force this month.

Tim Sperryn, owner of BL_NK (Picture: Valerie Browne)

Tim Sperryn, owner of BL_NK (Picture: Valerie Browne) - Credit: Archant

Workers over 25 must be paid £7.20 an hour, rising to £9 an hour by 2020 – effectively an increase in the minimum wage that was previously £6.70.

The “national living wage” is unrelated to the Voluntary London Living Wage Foundation’s recommended hourly rate of £9.40 an hour. More than a fifth of Hackney’s workforce earn less than this higher figure.

Jens Harder of Well Street Kitchen (Picture: Valerie Browne)

Jens Harder of Well Street Kitchen (Picture: Valerie Browne) - Credit: Archant

The East London Trade Guild’s Krissie Nicolson claimed the new law would negatively affect start-ups.

“Although we condone paying the London Living wage,” she told the Gazette, “the compulsory National Living Wage will have a detrimental effect on a number of small businesses, especially when they are starting out.”


You may also want to watch:


Jens Harder, who owns Well Street Kitchen, said he couldn’t “even bear to think how the business would have got off the ground if the minimum wage was £9 an hour”.

“If I had the option of two people applying for a position, I might look more favourably on employing the under-25 because I wouldn’t need to pay them as much,” he added. “I had a quick check and all my baristas are under 25 but sometimes I do employ kitchen porters [who are] a bit older.

Most Read

“I might have to resort to hiring under-25-year-old kitchen porters now, which is a terrible repercussion because it’s those guys who most probably have families to support.”

The phased-in compulsory wage increase was announced in last year’s autumn statement to offset cuts to housing benefits and working tax credits, effectively transferring support for low-income workers from government top-up schemes to employers.

Tim Sperryn, owner of BL_NK in Curtain Road, said he always paid staff of all ages a rate above the Voluntary London Living Wage.

“It’s important that [my staff] have enough money to live in London,” he said. “I benefit with a very low sick rate and happy staff who over-deliver. You can’t cut the engine room to be more profitable at the top end.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter