Entrepreneur issues Living Wage rallying cry

Article date: Mon, 07 Mar 2016 17:53 GMT

UKFast CEO Lawrence Jones

UKFast CEO Lawrence Jones MBE is issuing a challenge to UK businesses to embrace upcoming rises in the government's National Living Wage and guarantee the city's continued prosperity.

Jones, who has built cloud computing firm UKFast from a back bedroom to a £300 million company, claims that company bosses arguing against the proposed rise to the National Living Wage should be embarrassed, and that those firms which can afford to should aim towards a target of £10-per-hour for all staff.

He said: "If we want to make Manchester the number one tech city in the UK and create a genuine Northern Powerhouse then people need to be paid properly and be engaged and happy in their work.

"My first question to any CEO who says they can't afford it would be: 'what car do you drive?' I've got a nice car, but I'd sooner have a great team with everybody engaged and happy and able to pay their bills before I had all those trappings.

"I like the fact that we're pushing in the right direction on this and I understand that we can't inflict huge changes on the entire economy in one go. We have to move towards our goals on pay gradually, but I also think it's a no-brainer to pay staff well.

"To keep reducing the talent drain towards the South, businesses need to create an environment where people want to stay and they feel like they have the opportunity to develop and contribute. If they don't they'll end up with a disengaged workforce which doesn't want to go anywhere anyway, and that's much worse."

The entrepreneur is also critical of plans to exclude under 25s from having legal entitlement to the new higher wage.

 Jones continued: "I've got 19-year olds at UKFast who have really developed their skills, to the point where they're equivalent to or better than more seasoned colleagues. I don't think age should ever be a reason to discriminate, and if we do then we're no better than people who discriminate against ethnic minorities or religions, I think it's preposterous.

"How do they set that as well? £5.30 for anyone 18-20, £6.70 an hour for adults aged 21 and over? I'd love to know comes up with that and what's it based on?"

UKFast pays every team member, excluding apprentices on training contracts, at least the proposed living wage of £7.20 per-hour and 90% earn at least £9 per-hour. The firm also offers a 5% pay increase every year.

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