Tories must end age discrimination

I have once again called on the UK government to end age discrimination in minimum wage rates by making a Budget submission to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If he isn't prepared to take this important step to ensure fair pay then the UK Government should devolve the powers, so the Scottish government can change the law in Scotland.

Under current UK legislation, younger workers can be discriminated against with lower wages, despite doing the same job. Since 1st April 2018, workers over the age of 25 are entitled to a minimum wage of at least £7.83 an hour, while those aged 21 to 24 are only entitled to £7.38 an hour, those aged 18 to 20 only £5.90 an hour, those under 18 just £4.20 an hour, and apprentices can be paid as little as £3.70 an hour.

Put simply, the UK government is failing younger people by refusing to change the law – leaving younger workers thousands of pounds a year worse off.

While the powers to set the minimum wage remain reserved to Westminster, after Tory and Labour MPs blocked devolution, the SNP is working to encourage employers to pay the Living Wage in Scotland. The Scottish government’s Living Wage accreditation scheme has ensured over 1000 employers now pay a real Living Wage in Scotland – with plans to ensure a further 25,000 people benefit from their employer becoming Living Wage accredited in the next three years. 81.6% of Scottish workers earn the real Living Wage, the highest rate in the UK.

Millions of families across the UK have suffered from falling wages and squeezed incomes under the past decade of Tory austerity – but younger workers have also faced discriminatory minimum wages rates, meaning they can legally be paid less for doing the same job. The Tories have failed younger people by stubbornly refusing to end this discrimination, which penalises workers just because of their age, and takes no account of their needs, responsibilities and living costs.

The arguments for this discriminatory Tory policy just don’t stack up. The SNP government is working hard to encourage employers to pay a real Living Wage in Scotland – but as long the powers remain reserved to Westminster fairness will remain out of reach for far too many.

Instead of continuing to block devolution, and prevent a change in the law, the Tories and Labour must get behind SNP calls for reform – to ensure a fair and equal system for all workers.

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