Coronavirus: Business expert condemns Government decision to raise minimum wage amid pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused mass job losses and some serious stress for businesses across New Zealand. 

Despite the uncertainty, the Government did not back down on its decision to raise the minimum wage from $17.70 to $18.90 an hour.

Business New Zealand CEO Kirk Hope has condemned the decision telling The Project it will cause more harm than good.

"Where businesses are really struggling already it's an extra cost on them," he said on Thursday.

Hope was vocal about the decision before it came into effect on April 1, and says his criticism was misconstrued by the public.

"I had feedback when I said it was a bad idea. People said, 'Oh why are you bagging on minimum wage workers?'"

"Because if some of these costs are imposed on businesses that are already struggling there won't be jobs there - and that's the bottom line."

Hope's opinion is backed by other big players in New Zealand's business world.

Before the increase, ANZ Bank said, "Scrapping this year's minimum wage rise seems like a no-brainer" as the global economy struggles under the COVID-19 trade slump.

At the time, ANZ Bank's chief economist Sharon Zollner wrote on Twitter: "At a time when businesses are very nervous, putting this year's minimum wage rises on hold would support employment and better social outcomes."

However the Government never seemed to consider a delay in raising the minimum wage. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in March she would not delay the increase due to the COVID-10 pandemic, saying New Zealand was "well placed" economically to combat the virus' effects.

She also said the increase would have a stimulatory effect on a struggling economy.

"We have to keep in mind that what we need people to keep doing is continue to spend and consume," Ardern said. 

According to the Employment NZ website companies that cannot afford to give their workers the new minimum wage must communicate openly and honestly with their workers.

Any missed payments must be backdated so employees are paid out the correct wage when the company can afford it.