A recent survey conducted by the Equestrian Employers Association (EEA) to gather evidence for the Low Pay Commission’s consultation into National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates has identified challenging times ahead for the equestrian industry.

The on-course rate for the NLW in April 2024 is £10.95. Sixty five percent of equestrian employers have said that this is too high. When asked their view on the further lowering of the NLW threshold to those aged 21 and above, over half responded to say that their business would not be able to sustain this.

Taking the proposed rise to £10.95 per hour over a 50-hour week, this is an annual salary of £28,470, a rise of £3,770 (gross pay) per year for those being paid the NLW, compared with the current rate of £9.50.

Tullis Matson, President of the EEA, shared the association’s concerns.

“It’s highly expected that the rise will go ahead due to the cost-of-living crisis and the pledge contained within the Conservative Party’s manifesto,” he said. “Employers in the equestrian industry must forward plan and take action if their businesses are to remain viable over the next two years.”

An industry at risk

The EEA said some employers commented that the rise in the NLW will make it difficult to recruit those aged 23 and over and they would need to employ only younger people as a result.

Ninety three percent of employers said recruiting skilled staff in the equestrian industry was  problematic. A quarter has said that this is due to low pay, and over a third say this is due to the employees not liking the lack of flexibility in working hours.

In addition, low pay and lack of flexibility are contributing to poor staff retention rates with nearly half of employers seeing employees leaving due to these reasons.

With employers concerned that they can only employ younger people should the rise in the NMW and NLW rates go ahead, and there already being an existing problem in the recruitment and retention of staff, there is a real risk of the industry entering a staffing crisis in the near future, according to the EEA.

The cost-of-living crisis is having a huge impact too, with three-quarters of employers reporting having to increase prices to clients during the last 12 months. During the last 12 months, 72 percent of employers have seen a fall in profits, with 60 percent reporting that they are unable to invest in their business.

Read the full results here

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