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National Living Wage changes a 'great thing' says Top 100 employer

Wyboston Lakes welcomes pay increases, but says it's too early to pay Living Wage Foundation's recommended wages

Pictured: Mark Jones, managing director of Wyboston Lakes

A conference hotel named in the Sunday Times' Top 100 Best Companies list for the last three years says introduction of the National Living Wage will be "a great thing", despite it costing about £150,000 more in staff costs.

Wyboston Lakes says it welcomes George Osborne's new National Living Wage, which comes into effect next month, as being necessary for motivation and satisfaction among staff.

But the conference hotel says it is too early to start paying staff the living wage as set out by the Living Wage Foundation, which at £8.25 an hour (or £9.40 in London), is more than the chancellor's £7.20 for over 25s.

MD Mark Jones has developed a fast-track system to help staff move beyond the National Living Wage pay bracket quickly. He said the pay increases were part of a bigger package of enticements to staff.

"We've always been slightly ahead of the game deliberately because it's our policy. We want to employ the best people and therefore we want to give them the best package to show we're preferred employer. Part of that is wages, and we have a whole raft of additional benefits we offer as an employer," he said.

"What we've put in place from April is the ability for people to move quickly above £7.20 because we don't want anyone stuck on that. During probation staff will start on £7.20 but we will have a series of skills and competencies they will need to acquire if they're not already experienced. If they pass they'll always move above the £7.20 with us.

"I think we all need to have a wage or a salary we feel is fair for the job we do but it's one of a range of benefits . You don't create a high performance company or team simply by paying more than the guy next door. It's part of the motivational factor."

Wyboston Lakes was recently named a Top 100 Company to Work For by the Sunday Times for the third year running, and was this year ranked 43rd.

Other venues have said they would struggle with the payroll increases when they come into effect next month. Jones said it would add £100,000 to its staff costs of £6 million this year alone, or £150,000 from next year. Wyboston Lakes employs about 300 people.

However, Jones said hotel "couldn't move" to the Living Wage Foundation's recommended living wage of £8.25 yet.

"It's too early for us. Like any business in our industry we suffered with the economic downturn. Arguably we struggled more because our core business is based on conference and training rooms and trading took a really bad hit during the recession," Jones said.

"We've recovered now quite strongly but we've invested £6m in the venue over the last four years. It's on the back of that investment in the facility and additional facilities that we've been able to improve turnover (but) we've still got a way to go before we can sign up for the Living Wage Foundation."

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