In 2006 age discrimination legislation was introduced which prevented hiring managers and recruiters from requesting information about a candidate’s age.
Prior to this it was commonly expected that a candidate would include their age on their CV, and where it wasn’t volunteered it could be requested; a practice which was clearly discriminatory, particularly against older candidates, of which there was a growing pool as expected working lives lengthened and retirement was delayed.
The legislation had implications which stretched further than stating age on a CV, or requesting a photograph of a candidate from which their age might be determined, and meant that recruiters needed to take care not to be discriminatory when, for example, choosing where to place job adverts.
So, the 2006 legislation created a more equal playing field for all job seekers, particularly those of a certain age who had many years of experience to offer but might be deemed a less attractive hire because of their age.
However, there remained age discrimination in the system, sanctioned by the government through the National Minimum Wage legislation, first introduced in 1999, with the purpose of protecting low paid workers, particularly, by guaranteeing a minimum level of pay at one level for workers aged 22 years and above, and at a lower rate for those aged 18-21 years.
Discrimination through the National Minimum Wage could be forgiven prior to the 2006 act but not only has it not been addressed since, but it has also been blatantly reinforced as recently as 2016, when the National Living Wage was introduced for workers aged over 25 years. So, while on the one hand, recruiters have been diligent in protecting against age discrimination by adhering to the 2006 legislation, we now have a four-tier system for discriminating against workers because of their age through our National Minimum and National Living Wage.
As respected and professional recruiters at no point does age, or any other discriminatory factor, come into our matching process – we are looking for the best fit based on personality, skills and experience alone. We fail to see how someone’s birthdate, which might put them on either side of 25 years old on a given day, justifies an automatic change in the rate of pay. It would be unthinkable that we would discriminate in the same way at the other end of the working age range and, for example, expect people to accept a drop-in pay in the last few years before they retire.
The very legislation that is designed to protect the least advantaged in our society is discriminating against young people, who we should be actively encouraging and welcoming into the workplace.
It is fascinating, and abhorrent, to us that a company can be paying three different rates to employees doing the same job, according to their age. The fact is that everyone should be paid a fair wage for the work they do, regardless of their age. A 19-year-old, who has taken the initiative to get a job, develop work experience and earn a living, should not be paid less than a 25-year-old who may never have worked a day in their life.
In our belief that there must be a level playing field for everyone, we insist that all of our candidates, no matter what their age, receive the National Living Wage as a minimum; the National Minimum Wage is not something we believe.
The National Living Wage is, to us, the minimum wage anyone should receive and there should be no lower paid work than that.
Mark Burton and Aaron Bowes, Directors, Recruit Mint
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