One in three small firms unaware of today’s minimum wage increase

Time to readjust your budgets - minimum wage increases today. Anyone over 22 gets £5.80 an hour, up from £5.73. (18-21-year-olds get £4.83 and those between 18 and the compulsory school leaving age receive £3.57.)

The 1.2% increase is the lowest since the wage's introduction in 1999. Business lobby groups are, accordingly, generally happy with it. British Chambers of Commerce director general David Frost told BBC News when the rise was announced in May: "We pressed for a freeze to the minimum wage because of the severity of the downturn and the daily loss of jobs.

"We are pleased that the increase is only a modest one, and it shows that the Low Pay Commission [who advise the government on minimum wage] and the government have largely understood the seriousness of the situation."

John Cridland, deputy director general of the CBI, said: "This moderate increase recognises that many businesses are struggling, and helps protect jobs at a time of rising unemployment.

"The inflation-busting rise some unions had called for would have hit firms hard and put many lower paid workers on the dole."

More worrying for small businesses is the fact that many simply don't know about the new legislation. Research carried out by Bibby Financial Services last month found 31% of small businesses surveyed were unaware of the change. The figure went up to 44% among employers with four or fewer members of staff.

This is particularly troubling as the government is planning hefty fines and 'name and shame' tactics for business owners who pay below the minimum wage. This may help protect staff, but it risks penalising vulnerable businesses who simply haven't heard about the rise.

So start telling all the other small business owners you know (you can use the social bookmarking buttons at the bottom of this post as a short-cut). An extra 7p per hour is nothing compared to the thousands of pounds fine they risk otherwise.

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