Government jobs website advertises ‘below new living wage’ roles

Government jobs website caught advertising roles paying less than new living wageADVERTS REMOVED AND ‘RE-EVALUATED’ AFTER WE QUESTION THEIR LEGALITY

*GRADUATE FOG EXCLUSIVE!*

* OOH! THIS STORY HAS BEEN PICKED UP BY BUZZFEED, THE TAB AND THE INDEPENDENT *

Oh dear – the government’s new National Living Wage is so confusing that even staff working at its own flagship youth jobs website are struggling to understand the changes, Graduate Fog can exclusively reveal.

The Graduate Talent Pool has removed several adverts for jobs and internships after we questioned the legality of the salaries offered, in light of the new National Living Wage (NLW) introduced earlier this month. A spokesperson told Graduate Fog that the deleted positions were being “re-evaluated”.

In fairness, it’s no wonder they are confused – the UK now has FOUR minimum pay brackets that are tiered according to age.

Include the Apprentice Wage and the Living Wage (London) and the Living Wage (outside London) and that’s SEVEN. And many of these will change again in October 2016: 

*16 year olds above school leaving age **Apprentices aged 16-18 and older apprentices in the first year of their apprenticeships. Other apprentices are entitled to the appropriate aged based rate SOURCE: TUC

*16 year olds above school leaving age
**Apprentices aged 16-18 and older apprentices in the first year of their apprenticeships. Other apprentices are entitled to the appropriate aged based rate SOURCE: TUC

However, staff at the Graduate Talent Pool can’t claim they had no time to prepare. Plans for the new NLW were announced by the Chancellor, George Osborne, in July 2015. That’s nine months ago.

The confusion came to light after Graduate Fog spotted three advertised internships which appeared offer a salary below the new NLW (£7.20 per hour).

One advert (for a Digital / Content Marketing internship with London-based digital marketing agency Tamar) specified an hourly wage of £6.94.

Two others (for a Graduate Analyst internship and a Graduate Marketing and Research internship with recruitment agency Inspiring Interns) stated monthly pay of £1,100. This would be legal for someone aged 25 or over if they were working 35 hours (or less) per week. The number of hours was not specified in the advert, but 37 is considered to be standard in most industries. If this is the case, the hourly wage is just £6.84 per hour – so, below the legal national living wage for workers aged 25 and over.

With many young people struggling to gain momentum in the early stages of their career, it would not be uncommon for someone aged 25 or over to find these paid internships attractive. Mature students may also wish to apply.

CREDIT: Save The Student

CREDIT: Save The Student

Graduate Fog warned the Graduate Talent Pool that stating salaries in absolute terms makes it unclear who can (and cannot) apply for these roles.

Should job-seekers aged 25 or over assume that they can’t not apply for these internships, as they’re too ‘expensive’ (beyond the employer’s budget)? Or, if their application is successful, should they expect to be paid less than the legal minimum for their age group because that’s what was advertised?

Clearly, real thought needs to be put into how to advertise salaries for roles for young people, given the recent changes in the law.  

So, why hasn’t this happened? Why was it left to us to point out the problem? When Graduate Fog raised concerns about the salaries offered for these roles, the adverts were removed overnight.

When we noticed they had gone and emailed again, a representative for the Graduate Talent Pool – which is managed on behalf of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills by Graduate Prospects – told us:

“I can confirm that, yes, the positions have been taken down, amongst others. We are currently re-evaluating any vacancies which might be affected by the Living Wage by taking down the adverts temporarily, contacting the original employers, finding out whether or not they are aware of the change in legislation and whether their pay brackets have been changed accordingly. This is largely due to you pointing out the issues with the adverts below, so we thank you for bringing this to our attention.”

Commenting on the adverts and their removal, Graduate Fog‘s founder Tanya de Grunwald said:

“Despite having nine months to prepare for the changes, the Graduate Talent Pool appears to be in a state of confusion about how to advertise roles for young people to ensure that all offer a fair and legal wage and that opportunities are open to all applicants.

“Why were they so caught out, when the plans were announced nine months ago? Why was it left to us to point out such an obvious problem with the way salaries are stated in their job adverts? The fact that nobody at the Graduate Talent Pool was ‘on it’ suggests a serious disconnect from the young people they are responsible for serving.

“We’ve already questioned the ethics of a tiered minimum wage system based on age – why is it you can join the Army at 16 but you don’t get the ‘grown-up’ National Living Wage until your 25th birthday? Now we’ve shown there are serious practical problems with it too. The government must clarify what is and is not acceptable when UK employers advertise roles likely to be taken by young workers.”

The NLW has been heavily criticised for being unfair and insulting to the UK’s young workers. It seems perverse that can join the Army at 16 and vote at 18 – yet our politicians and employers don’t consider that you’re worth paying the full adult National Living Wage until you’re 25. 

The only justification offered so far has been Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock’s statement that young workers are “less productive” than older workers.

Graduate Fog’s friends at the TUC say there are circumstances in which it may be legal to advertise roles aimed specifically at younger job seekers, but that conditions for this did not seem to be met here – and they shared our concern that older job seekers risked wasting their time applying for roles they could not legally be given. Positions aimed at young people or recent graduates should be advertised as paying “National Living Wage / National Minimum Wage (dependent upon successful candidate’s age)”, Graduate Fog’s founder Tanya de Grunwald said. 

UPDATE:

Following up on Graduate Fog’s story, The Tab contacted the Graduate Talent Pool for comment. At 8.05pm this evening (19 April) they posted this update: 

A representative from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has responded to the piece with the following statement.

“The Graduate Talent Pool website is run externally on behalf of the department. As soon as we became aware of these adverts, they were taken down, and appropriate checks have now been put in place to ensure this does not happen again.”

* WHOSE FAULT IS IT?
Are staff at Graduate Talent Pool incompetent? Or has the government not been clear enough about how wages for young workers should be advertised, since the new National Living Wage was introduced? And what do you think about the tiered wage system?

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