On 8 June 2016, Westminster Hall heard a debate on Age Discrimination and the National Living Wage.
On 8 June 2016, Westminster Hall heard a debate on Age Discrimination and the National Living Wage. Two days prior to this, on 6 June, the House of Common Library released a Debate Pack on this issue with the same name. A Debate Pack is, in its simplest form, a gathering of useful information, facts and figures that are relevant to the actual debate itself.
The debate and the pack itself reopens the issue of whether the age bands in the current National Minimum Wage legislation can be justified – remembering that the National Living Wage is actually just another banding of the National Minimum Wage.
Of course, the pack and the debate itself are admirable in their intentions of asking whether the age bands are discriminatory in terms of pay. A common argument that has always been presented to justify these bands is that paying a younger worker less will encourage employers to take them into the workplace. This argument stretches all the way back to the late 1990s. Whether this has ever actually been achieved seems to depend on which research papers you choose to read. The fact that successive governments have recognised youth unemployment and introduced measures to combat it (no employer’s NICs on under 21s for example) suggests to me that this justification has no merit.
I believe that the Debate Pack and the transcript of the debate itself are eminently readable. But what of the future, if anything? The debate was an opportunity for Holly Lynch MP to raise this issue and receive a response from a government minister (Nicholas Boles MP, minister of state, Department for Business Innovation and Skills). At the end of the debate, Ms Lynch received an assurance from Mr Boles that further evidence supporting pay discrimination would be provided to her. Maybe we have not seen the last of this.
Employers should be mindful that age discrimination is actually unlawful in employment (except in terms of the rate of the National Minimum/Living Wage payable). This is courtesy of the Equality Act 2010 in Great Britain and the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 in Northern Ireland.