Young workers deserve a higher minimum wage, unions say

The TUC's comments coincide with a new report by thinktank Demos, which found 36% percent of young people worry about not being paid enough.

The national minimum wage is unfair on younger workers, the TUC has said.

The £7.50 an hour top rate currently applies only to those over 25. It is perfectly legal to pay 21 to 24-year-olds just £7.05 an hour and those under 21 can get just £5.60 for the same work.

When the minimum wage rises in April 2018 young people are likely to fall even further behind, the federation of trade unions will warn today as it gives evidence to the Low Pay Commission (LPC).

The 21-24 rate has increased more slowly than the over 25 rate, the TUC said. This means the gap between older and younger people’s pay has widened by more than £400 a year.

The union’s comments coincide with a new report by Demos, which found that low pay is the third biggest concern for young people in the UK, with 36% percent saying it is something they worry about.

Only a lack of affordable housing and a lack of jobs ranked higher in the thinktank’s survey of 18 to 30-year-olds.

The TUC has called for the top minimum wage to be extended to all workers over the age of 21, and the rates for 16 to 20-year-olds to be increased.

More resources should also be put into enforcement, it said, to ensure the new higher rate is being paid to all who qualify.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady wrote for Left Foot Forward on Monday that TUC research has found one in eight working people are skipping meals because they can’t afford to eat.

The TUC will warn the LPC today that the proposed rise in the minimum wage will not be enough to combat in-work poverty.

O’Grady said:

“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.

She added that the TUC would also like to see more employers adopt the real Living Wage, saying: “Not only will it be good for their workers, but to help attract and retain talent.”

Support the TUC in pushing to make the £10 national minimum wage target a reality as soon as possible, and extending this to everyone. After all, equal work deserves equal pay.

Charlotte England is a freelance journalist and writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.

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