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09 December 2015 | Care

Christie + Co – “Quality operators will weather the National Living Wage storm”

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Specialist property adviser, Christie + Co has today released a new report gauging initial reactions to the National Living Wage’s (NLW) impact on the UK labour market from key players in UK business.

By identifying the specific challenges facing the Hotels, Pubs, Restaurants, Care, Childcare, Convenience Retail and Medical sectors, Christie + Co has offered potential mitigating solutions to the issues and analysed the expected impact the NLW will have on these labour intensive segments.


•    Hotels – In a sector where 1 out of 2 employees currently fall below the NLW threshold, this new measure has not gone unnoticed and costs are expected to increase significantly. Smaller operators and independent owners are most likely to feel the pressure from the NLW as they do not have the operational flexibility of larger groups. Hoteliers need to adopt a proactive, strategic and creative approach to mitigate this impact and leverage the opportunities triggered by the NLW.  

•    Pubs – The NLW announcement shakes the Pubs industry at a time when the sector is gradually recovering from various measures that have gradually weakened the sector in the past decade. Inevitably, margins are going to be squeezed and in the longer term, other actions will have to be taken to compensate for this, whether it is a reduction in staff or reduced investment in facilities

•    Restaurants - The introduction of the NLW coincides with a complete rethink of remuneration packages in the restaurants sector, with the tipping culture already under scrutiny by the Government. Tips have always been an essential component of any employment package offered to staff and employers now have to balance their equitable distribution whilst also managing the potentially conflicting implications of the NLW. 


•    Care - The introduction of the NLW adds yet another cloud on the horizon in an industry where staff costs are the single biggest item of expenditure, particularly for adult social care. Based on an analysis of care homes which Christie + Co has appraised this year, we estimate that net wages will increase by around 5% if pay rates for staff below the Living Wage level are increased. Christie + Co estimates that approximately £1.2 bn of additional public funding would be required by 2020 to cover the cost of the NLW. Positively, the Autumn Spending Review raised the possibility for local authorities to increase council tax by 2% per year which could generate approximately £550m in extra funding next year.

•    Childcare - The cost of childcare generates recurrent debate, and while many operators are eager to better remunerate their staff, the shortfall in funding provided by local authorities is one of the major reasons why salaries paid in the nursery sector have remained broadly lower than for other care and teaching professions. The primary concerns voiced in relation to the introduction of the NLW are that increased wage costs will inevitably have to be passed on to parents through fee increases. Our recent discussions with prominent UK operators indicate that nursery fees will increase between 4% to 6%, however evidence gained by the National Day Nursery Association (NDNA) suggests that fee increases may need to be closer to 10% in order to meet the costs of the NLW.

•    Convenience Retail - The cost of the NLW across the Convenience sector will be in the region of £166m and is likely to put 80,000 jobs at risk according to the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS). Corporate operators in the convenience sector will be able to absorb the extra costs more easily than smaller operators, which make up 75% of the convenience market. The reality of the NLW announcement has already impacted the sector with 40% of independent retailers cutting back on planned investment in order to mitigate the additional costs on their business.

•    Medical - It seems that there is no initial apprehension ahead of the National Living Wage introduction, which is partly explained by the fact that relatively few employees in this particular industry are on low wages. Indeed, with only 17% of Human Health and Social Work employees set to be affected by the NLW, the measure does not seem to be the main area of concern in the sector.


Chris Day, Managing Director at Christie + Co comments: “In our view, competent quality operators in both the corporate and individual sectors will weather the storm as far as the NLW is concerned, and will find ways to mitigate the impact either through economies of scale or innovative solutions.

“Whilst the implementation of the National Living Wage will undoubtedly create challenges within certain sectors, it would appear that most operators are proactively tackling it and drawing up inventive plans to limit the impact on their businesses.

“Within the Care sector, those operators with leased models at full market rent will need to renegotiate their rental obligations to avoid the risk of forgoing their leases. Operators in other sectors with long term fixed price contracts will almost certainly experience difficulties going forward, but in most instances, operating margins should have enough of a cushion to absorb the impact, and quality operators will find innovative ways to offset this.  

“Across our sectors, it is likely that corporate operators will undergo strategic reviews of their estates and poorer performing units will come out of the corporate sphere and return to the individual sector.  We have already seen that there is a ready market waiting for such investment opportunities.”

Download “Is the National Living Wage Creating National Living Rage? – The perspective from UK Businesses” from http://www.christie.com/en/publications/243.pdf