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Reactions to the national living wage in hospitality

Andreas Walmsley (Plymouth Business School, Plymouth University, Plymouth, UK)
Shobana Partington (Department of Operations, Technology, Events and Hospitality Management, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK)
Rebecca Armstrong (Responsible Tourism Matters, Bristol, UK)
Harold Goodwin (Institute for Place Management, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 28 November 2018

Issue publication date: 7 January 2019




The purpose of this paper is to explore reactions to the introduction by the UK Government of the National Living Wage (NLW) in the UK hospitality sector and consider implications for the status of employee relations.


In-depth interviews were conducted with senior industry representatives of the hospitality sector in the UK.


Concerns surrounding an increase in the wage bill, in maintaining pay differentials and in shifting employment to youth were confirmed. Managers expressed ambiguity in face of the legislation, offering agreement at a personal level with the rationale underpinning the NLW, but also expressing concern about impacts on their businesses.

Research limitations/implications

This exploratory study offers the basis for further research in understanding the foundation of employee relations in hospitality.

Social implications

A reconsideration of the nature of the employment relationship is key at a time of growing concerns about the business-society relationship.


Uses reactions to the UK Government’s stipulation of a NLW to explore the basis of employee relations in the hospitality sector. This is timely where work to date in hospitality has largely focussed on symptoms but not causes of poor working conditions.



The authors thank the reviewers for their careful reading of the manuscript and their insightful comments and suggestions.


Walmsley, A., Partington, S., Armstrong, R. and Goodwin, H. (2019), "Reactions to the national living wage in hospitality", Employee Relations, Vol. 41 No. 1, pp. 253-268.



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