Current minimum wage laws could be inadvertently encouraging employers to engage in age discrimination by influencing them to seek out younger candidates to take advantage of lower pay rates, parliament has been told.
The government has previously argued lower wage brackets are necessary for under-25s to gain employment, skills and experience. But speaking about her private member’s bill on Friday, Holly Lynch, Labour MP for Halifax, said this logic was flawed because employers could only benefit from the lower pay bands if they directed their recruitment efforts towards younger workers, effectively engaging in age discrimination.
“Any employer interviewing for a role is legally required to choose the best candidate for the position, regardless of age,” she said. “Any monetary incentive can only be acted on if the employer discriminates against older applicants. It is simply not going to work.”
If passed, Lynch’s bill would extend the national living wage (NLW) to those aged 18 to 24. At the moment, it is only payable to those aged 25 or older, and those aged under 25 receive the applicable national minimum wage for their age group.
As of this April, the NLW is £7.83 per hour, and the government has pledged to raise this to £9 by 2020. However, those aged 18 to 20 are entitled to just £5.90 – or 25 per cent less than the current NLW rate – per hour, while those between 21 and 24 are entitled to receive £7.38. Previous House of Commons Library research has revealed an 18-year-old working full time on the minimum wage will earn £3,774 less per year than a 25-year-old co-worker on NLW.