The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has spoken out against the national minimum wage (NMW) as it prepares to give evidence to the Low Pay Commission (LPC).

An increase to the national minimum wage will be coming in April 2018, but the top rate will apply only to those over 25, something the TUC believes is putting those in the 16-20 and 21-24 brackets at risk of being left behind.

As a result, they are calling on the LPC to extend the top rate of minimum wage to include all workers aged 21 and over.

One in eight

A recent poll from the TUC/GQR found that one in eight workers in the country are skipping meals to make ends meet and 44% are worried about meeting basic household expenses including food, transport and energy.

The poll also found that one in six have left the heating off to save money on energy bills. When asked how they would deal with an unexpected £500 bill, 24% of workers said they would be unable to pay.

Same job, different pay

According to TUC analysis, the gap between the 21-24 and 25 + age groups has widened by more than £400 a year, but when you consider that both groups are often doing the same work for varying rates of pay, it’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

Speaking about the disparity, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Minimum wage pay rates aren’t increasing fast enough and the government’s target of £9 an hour by 2020 now seems a fantasy.

 “Younger workers deserve to be treated fairly. Why are 21 to 24-year-olds getting less pay than their colleagues for the same work, when they face the same expenses as other adults and are highly productive?

 “The minimum wage needs a serious boost in the coming years, especially for younger workers. With employment, the economy and earnings set to grow next year, employers will be able to afford a decent rise. And higher rates will need to be properly enforced to be meaningful.

 “I’d also encourage more employers to adopt the real Living Wage standard. Not only will it be good for their workers, but (it will help) to help attract and retain talent.”

When it comes to pay, the TUC wants to see:

  • The LPC go beyond the government’s target of 60% of median earnings by 2020 for workers aged 25 and above, and get the NMW rate to £10 as quickly as possible. 21-24 year olds be paid the full national minimum wage rate (including the “national living wage” supplement)
  • The rates for younger workers should narrow the gap between adults and younger workers as quickly as can be sustained
  • The apprentice rate should be raised to the level of the young workers rate
  • The apprentice rate should only apply to those undertaking intermediate level apprentices who are aged 16-18 and to 19-20 year olds in the first year of their apprenticeship

Age discrimination

The old assumption that 21-24 year olds have less monthly expenditure than those over 25 is old hat, and almost as insulting as claiming that men deserve to be paid more than women.

Age discrimination can take many forms and it’s encouraging to see the TUC take a stand against it. Every company will do their best to treat employees fairly but if you have a younger workforce, the potential cost of a national minimum wage increase could be more than you can afford.

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