Why the ‘National Living Wage’ is bad for Britain’s Young Workers
On the 1st April 2016 the Government brought in the ‘National Living Wage’ – essentially a slight increase on the national minimum wage, with a different name. Employers must now pay workers at least £7.20 per hour. But not only does this so-called ‘living wage’ pay far less than a real living wage (calculated to be £8.45 per hour)- it only applies to workers aged 25 and over.
1. Workers under 25 can be paid up to 23% less for the same work
The new ‘National Living Wage’ allows young workers aged 18-24 who do the same work as their over 25 colleagues to be paid between 3% (21-24s) and 23% (18-20s) less for their work – a massive disparity in pay that doesn’t take into account the living costs that young workers face just as frequently as workers aged over 25.
In-work poverty is increasing among young workers in Britain, and MPs fear this could affect as many as 3.44 million young workers. For many under 25s, low pay is trapping them in poverty and they are struggling to afford a roof over their head, looking after their kids or even socialising with friends.
2. Some employers might cut pay for workers under 25
Although some good employers have agreed to pay the new rate from age 18, tragically because of this policy we have even seen young workers under 25 who were previously paid £7.20 per hour having their pay cut to the new level by their employer.
An article by the Guardian on 7th April 2016 told the story of Anthony, aged 23, working in a London warehouse. Anthony said: “I was already getting £7.20 an hour … I’m now on £6.70. It’s been cut just because I’m 23 and not 25,” he says. “I’m getting less for doing the same job [I was before]. I feel so worthless.”
3. Workers over 25 could lose out on a job
Equal pay makes better work for everyone. By leaving under 25s out of the National Living Wage, workers over 25 could be trapped by dodgy hiring practices. Some bad employers could currently be inclined to substitute the cheaper labour of younger workers aged under 25 for more expensive older workers. In its spring 2016 report, the Low Pay Commission raised its concern over the impact this may have on workers over 25, particularly at workplaces in retail and hospitality sectors where low pay is common.
What Have Young Workers Got to Say About It?
Rebecca, 20, retail worker, GMB Young Member
“Because of my age, the government says I can live on £5.55 an hour whilst my colleague earns £7.20 an hour for doing exactly the same job. Rent and living expenses are exactly the same, so why aren’t the wages? Earning less stops me from getting on in life. I can’t afford to study part time to get a better job, have driving lessons or even think about owning a car. I’m frustrated at the fact I am expected to live on so little, whereas if I was older I would automatically be paid more.”
Tom, 20, GMB Young Member
“I recently worked in a fast food sandwich company on a zero-hours contract and was paid the [then] minimum wage for 18-20 year olds at £5.30 an hour. This was whilst my colleagues working beside me in the restaurant were paid far more on £7.20 an hour simply because they were aged over 25. I felt left out and not valued at all by my employer. It was a wage I simply couldn’t live on. In the end I had to take up more jobs and borrow money from my family which has now put me into debt, all because my work is apparently worth less than if I was born earlier. Being given equal pay for equal work would help me to plan my future. I’m not asking for much. I’m just asking for fairness.”
GMB Young Members Take Action
The GMB Young Members’ Network is campaigning for a real living wage of £10 per hour for all workers, regardless of age. For living wage week, we put our demands to the government in Parliament with the help of Shadow Minister for Labour Jack Dromey MP and longstanding supporter of our campaign Holly Lynch MP.
Sign the GMB Young Members’ Network Parliamentary Petition here.