Equal minimum wages needed for young workers

New laws against age discrimination pose difficult questions over the legality of the current minimum wage arrangements

Jo Swinson today challenged Government Ministers to tackle age discrimination at work by standardising the national minimum wage for all age groups.

The minimum wage recently rose to £3.30 per hour for 16-18-year-olds, £4.45 for 18-21-year-olds and £5.35 an hour for adults. However, the possibility of legal challenges over these varying pay rates has been raised by the Government’s new age discrimination legislation which came into effect on October 1st.

Speaking in Parliament today, Jo asked Secretary of State for Scotland Douglas Alexander:

An estimated 56,000 Scots between the ages 16 and 21 are earning less than their older colleagues, solely because of their age. Does the Minister agree that this age discrimination is probably illegal and certainly unacceptable, and that it is time for the lower minimum wage rates for young workers to go?

Jo commented:

“By outlawing age discrimination at work while operating a policy of lower minimum pay for young workers, Ministers have walked into a legal minefield. They must remove age barriers and operate one standard minimum wage for workers of all ages, before legal challenges to the minimum wage begin to flood the courts.

“The blanket approach of lowering the minimum wage for all 16-21-year-olds to give them an advantage in the job market may help in some cases, but for all young people to be paid less to improve the job prospects of a few is unfair.

“The recent example of ASDA paying their under-18 employees the same hourly wage as their adult staff is a welcome example of a company embracing the new legislation. The Government should show the same respect to young people.”

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