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Does the law help Young Workers?

Equality - 16 Nov 2020

It’s been 10 years since the implementation of the Equality Act – how has it influenced experiences of Young People in the workplace.

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The Equality Act treats discrimination based on age different to other protected characteristics because the law allows employers to discriminate because of peoples age in a wider range of situations and if the employer can prove it is justified.

The main issue that I and many other young people have faced in my workplace is the minimum wage. It is not illegal to pay a young worker the lower minimum wage if that is what they qualify for.

Myself and my colleague were both doing the same job on the same terms and conditions and both on minimum wage. They were however, being paid more than me as they were in a higher age bracket. However, their day to day spending was not higher than mine, our essentials and rent were the same and this is something that did not sit right with me.

As a result, I got involved in the GMB’s Wages not Based Ages campaign, which focused on a getting a real living wage for all workers regardless of age.

We got hundreds of people to sign our campaign and managed to get the Labour Party to commit to scrapping age bands on National Minimum Wage rates if they get into power. Work on this cpntinues, with Young Members in Wales & Yorkshire recently launching local campaigns to get employers to pay fair wages.

Stereotyping has also been massive issue in the workplace for me. I started in an organisation aged 17 as an apprentice, 10 years later, I was still being treated as an apprentice despite earning a degree and changing my role several times.

Stereotyping has also been massive issue in the workplace for me. I started in an organisation aged 17 as an apprentice, 10 years later, I was still being treated as an apprentice despite earning a degree and changing my role several times.

No matter what my experience I was still seen as the 'young female apprentice' in the supporting role. There was nothing illegal on the treatment that I was receiving, however the stereotype that was attached to me led to me being repeatedly underminded.

Such attitudes do not help young woman workers progress, it took me moving to a different organisation for my input to be truely valued.

So, what can you and workplaces do to tackle and change attitudes in the workplace?

Some suggestions are:

  • Working with management in your workplace to understand or develop specific policies on age discrimination.
  • Speak out when you, or someone you know sees or is a victim of age discrimination
  • Encourage management and other colleagues to lead by example when tackling age discrimination.

In closing, protection of discrimination based on age, as part of the Equality Act, is always welcome and should always be a protected characteristic, and there have been some wins as a result of this.

However, with stereotyping and ageist attitudes deep rooted in workplaces, I do wonder if it goes far enough.

Rachael Hookway
Young Members Representative, GMB CEC

 
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