Discrimination against younger employees

Thursday February 2, 2017

Growing up is difficult. Absorbing an education whilst having a good time is undoubtedly a difficult balance for young people. But is that golden ticket of an education enough anymore? Does it get young people onto the career ladder and chasing their dreams? Recent stories in the news have brought to light the negative attitudes some people have towards younger workers. Attitudes that not only affect the chances of young people finding their feet on the career ladder, but also border on age discrimination.

Paying young people their minimum wage entitlements is required by law. The National Minimum Wage is lower for age groups under 21, and it will remain so after the new National Living Wage is introduced for over 25s. Although we won’t be discussing in this blog why that is (there is speculation that the government itself, through this policy, could be discriminating against younger workers), we won’t be the first to denounce this MP’s claims that it’s because younger people are less productive!

If you do pay under 21s the National Minimum Wage, their pay must increase to reflect their relevant wage band from the employee’s birthday. Not only does this ensure you’re fulfilling National Minimum Wage obligations, the pay rise also makes for a great birthday present! A much better birthday pressie than that received by one employee, who was dismissed at 18 years old so her employer could avoid increasing her pay, a tribunal found.

Discrimination during Recruitment

Moving away from issues regarding pay, an indirect and easy-to-fall-into form of discrimination occurs when a job requirement is imposed that’s too difficult for younger workers to reasonably meet. This is only relevant when the individual is fully qualified for the job. But, for example, it would occur if the new job rules a candidate out as they don’t have a minimum number of years’ experience. This is why you need to be careful how you recruit, and how you word job adverts so as to not unreasonably exclude protected characteristics.

Many would say that the NHS relies more heavily on younger workers than most other industries. If you’ve been keeping one eye on the headlines recently, you’re sure to have heard the uproar from thousands of junior doctors over their new employment contract to be enforced by Jeremy Hunt. Over 20,000 protested against changes which could cut their pay by 30% and force them to work more unsocial hours. According to this recent survey, if the changes go ahead, fewer than 1 in 3 doctors would stick around and work for the NHS!

So it’s clear that age discrimination protects those of all ages, not just older workers. To make sure you’re staying on the right side of the law, and that your workplace is accommodating for younger workers, give The HR Dept a call.

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