Employers and Manufacturers Association says living wage increase 'threatens the viability' of some businesses

One of the country's oldest business associations has come out swinging against the latest hikes to the living wage, saying it will harm already-struggling businesses.

It comes as thousands of workers can expect a boost to their paycheck, with accredited living wage employers set to pay the new rate of $26 dollars an hour from September.

The increase reflects a spike in the cost of living and follows increases to the minimum wage and other benefits which kicked in over the weekend.

But Brett O'Reilly from the Employers and Manufacturers Association argued now is not the time for big wage increases, with some businesses holding on by a thread.

"We can see that every day with the restaurants that can't open in the weekends, shops that are having to close early, [and] manufacturers that are having to operate on shorter shifts," he told Newshub.

"So cost pressure is right across the economy and every time we increase costs we threaten the viability of those businesses."

O'Reilly said the Government should look at other ways to help lower-income earners.

"There's been a lot of talk about changing the tax brackets which would immediately put more money into people's pockets, we can also look at areas like Working for Families."

The jump follows a full recalculation, which happens every five years, and a spike in the cost of living hasn't gone unnoticed.

From September there will be some relief for low-income earners, with the living wage increasing 9.9 percent from $23.65 per hour to $26.00.

The rate will see workers at accredited living wage employers earn at least $3.30 more than the minimum wage.

Aiden Donoghue is a long-time living wage advocate, and he knows how difficult it is for families to make ends meet, week in and week out.

"It's a real struggle for them just to even be able to put bread and butter on the table or go out and do stuff that they want to do as a family," he said.

Donoghue told Newshub "it means for those who are already on the living wage, that it continues to do its job and allow those people to live with dignity".

"And as long as it keeps getting updated and reflects current economic conditions then it will continue to do its job."

The average total weekly expenses for a two-adult, two-child family is now just under $1500 ($1428.83) - up from $1167.

According to Living Wage Calculations some of the biggest cost increases since the last review in 2018 are for housing, household contents and services, food, and transport.

"Were we surprised by that? No, we were not surprised by that, because it's everyone's lived experience right now - that it costs a lot more to do the basic necessities of life than it used to," said Reverend Stephen King, who is chair of the Living Wage Movement.