The early years sector has warned it cannot afford another minimum wage increase – unless the government plugs a claimed £662m funding shortfall. The Early Years Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch said early years professionals deserve better pay, but highlighted new figures from research firm Ceeda, which shows that despite average pay rises, earnings are lagging “woefully behind” other sectors. Leitch was due to reveal the findings during his evidence to the Low Pay Commission yesterday. Ceeda found that nursery practitioners and managers received 3 per cent and 4 per cent rises respectively after the minimum wage increased this year. However, nursery manager pay is on average £13.97 an hour compared to £20.42 per hour for other comparable professions. Practitioners earn an average of £8.74 compared to £9.59 an hour for roles in the same occupational class, according to the Ceeda early years sector skills survey. Read more.