The Government must stop cheating 21- to 24-year-olds out of the top rate of National Minimum Wage (NMW), the Low Pay Commission has been told today.

The TUC (Trades Union Congress) is warning the Commission that current and planned NMW levels risk leaving younger workers behind. At present, the highest wage bracket (the so-called ‘national living wage’) only applies to those aged 25 and over, leaving workers aged 21, 22, 23 and 24 (including many graduates) trailing behind on a much lower salary, despite doing identical work and having the same living expenses to cover. Before the national living wage was brought in, the highest minimum wage bracket was for workers aged 21 and over.

Graduate Fog was one of the first to challenge this blatant age discrimination when the astonishing change was first introduced without any evidence-based justification by the Government. (Tell us again why those aged 21 to 24 aren’t considered worthy of ‘grown-up’ wages? Remember, you can join the UK Armed Forces aged 16, and vote at 18.)

Increases to the minimum wage will come into force in April 2018, but the new top rate will continue only to apply to workers over 25. Calling out this blatant ageism, the TUC is demanding:

– the top rate of the minimum wage to be extended to all workers aged 21 and above
– the rates for 16- to 20-year-olds, and apprentices, to be increased, and
– more resources for enforcement to ensure the new higher rate is being paid to all who qualify

Happy 25th birthday! You’ll finally be paid a wage you can (almost) live on

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady (pictured above with the Prime Minister Theresa May) 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 to help attract and retain talent.”

Happily, some employers disagree with the Government’s sudden and strange decision to class workers as full adults at 25 rather than 21, with a few being fabulously vocal. In an exclusive interview with Graduate Fog last year, Pernille Hagild, Country HR Manager for IKEA UK and Ireland, told us why the furniture retailer rejects the entire concept of age-related pay, and stressed that an employee’s personal circumstances (for example, whether they still live with their parents) are unrelated to the value of their labour to an employer: 

“While we believe that the government’s introduction of a National Living Wage is a step in the right direction, we believe in paying a meaningful wage for all co-workers, regardless of how old they are and taking into account where they live.

“In fact, as well as becoming an accredited Living Wage employer, we have also become a principal partner of the Living Wage Foundation. We want to support the work the Living Wage Foundation is doing on such an important societal issue that is so important to our business and close to our values.

“We believe this partnership will enable us to be part of the ongoing dialogue around the living conditions or people in the UK, which is central to our success as a company.”

WHY FAIR PAY IS GOOD BUSINESS: “While we believe that the government’s introduction of a National Living Wage is a step in the right direction, we believe in paying a meaningful wage for all co-workers, regardless of how old they are.” – Pernille Hagild, IKEA (September 2016)

With brands like IKEA setting such high standards on fair pay for workers of all ages, many big businesses (including those within the notoriously stingy retail and hospitality sectors) have come under growing pressure to ignore the new 25+ cut-off, which insults younger workers by clearly stating their labour is worth less.

The list of employers paying younger workers more than they have to includes Boots, H&M, Costa and Nando’s. Many have gone much further than is legally required, extending the top minimum wage not just to 21 but right down to 18, to ensure that a worker’s age bears no relation to their pay packet at all.

These may sound like small differences in hourly pay, but they really add up. As the 21-24 rate is growing more slowly that the amount paid to older workers, TUC analysis reveals that the gap between the pay of people in this age group and those over 25 has widened by more than £400 a year. The TUC argues that with high levels of employment and record corporate profits, employers can afford a strong increase in the minimum wage, and that the LPC should be bold in its recommendation of a new rate to government.

Or should age-related pay be scrapped completely? If you’re aged 21-24, how do you feel about not being considered worthy of ‘grown-up’ wages yet? We’d love to hear your views on this important issue, so please share them below…

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