The least you can do

by Maria HARDING B.Eng (Hons), EDITOR

I have now reached the stage in my life when I catch myself saying things like `My very first job in Dolcis Shoes only paid £1.19 an hour,’ so a minimum wage for school leavers of £3.20 seems pretty generous. The sum for the minimum wage, they tell us, was reached after some deliberation having listened to the opinions and advice from both sides of the fence. Now the figure has been announced – employers say it’s too much and unions say it’s not enough. Now there’s a surprise.

Personally I’m in favour of a minimum wage – it encourages people into the workplace, reducing their reliance on benefit, and it reduces the exploitation of those in low paid jobs. I’m afraid I don’t buy in to the complaint that companies can’t afford to pay it and will have to lay workers off. If that is the case they are currently making profit at the expense of their workforce and that surely can’t be an effective way to run a business.

But there again isn’t that what every company does?

When did your boss last come to you and say `Hey! Nice job – I’m going to give you a rise’? Then again, if the boot is on the other foot, when did you last seek to give one of your staff a rise just because they deserved it?

In some companies – albeit very few – it is policy to display every single employee’s salary on the wall: from the most junior member of staff to the MD. In these companies everyone must, and does, justify the amount he or she is paid because the system is completely transparent. But in most companies it is frowned upon to discuss your salary with co-workers. At the same time, those looking to recruit staff are also discouraged from advertising the salary of jobs that they might be offering. How would it look if you ended up paying more than you needed to?