Sub-minimum wage rates are outdated

Louise Hickey

When different rates of the minimum wage were introduced in correlation with working age, the justification was that young people had fewer responsibilities than older people in the working industry.

At the moment, workers under 18 are only guaranteed up to 70% of the national minimum wage, which is €7.91 per hour. Your employer can pay you more than the minimum wage if they want, but they are not required to by law.

The minimum wage for those aged 18 is €9.04 an hour. For those aged 19, it is €10.17 an hour.

Those under 20 may not need money as much as their older colleagues, but it is not an excuse to pay them less for working the same job.

Young workers are being exploited financially by sub-minimum wages. How can it be against the law to discriminate against age in the workplace, but within the law to pay younger staff less?

Speaking to Sinn Féin spokesperson for workers’ rights, Louise O’Reilly, she said “you need to think about the signal that the state sends when they say that if you’re aged under 18, and you’re working in the same job, as someone who’s aged over 18, legally, you can be paid less. So the state is effectively saying, your labour is not as valuable”.

Employers in certain fields across Ireland take advantage of these low rates of pay. We all know they hire younger staff to provide the service for their own financial benefit. The government is sending out a message that this is okay to do.

People Before Profit spokespersons for workers’ rights echoed that of O’Reilly’s. He said, “anyone under twenty can be paid less than the minimum wage. That’s wage poverty”.

I understand at such a young age, employees may not have the required experience for a job. It may be unfair to pay the required rate or minimum wage straight away if at the beginning the employee is not actually performing to the same ability as other workers.

This doesn’t mean a solution of simply slicing away their wages, but rather introducing a probationary period of a month or however long it may take for training to cease.

It would allow all workers, no matter what age, to feel valued for what they do. If age is not allowed to be a factor during the hiring phase then it shouldn’t be when the payroll comes around.

Louise Hickey

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