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Young workers and the National Minimum Wage

Lucas, Rosemary E. and Keegan, Shobana N. (2007) Young workers and the National Minimum Wage. diversity and inclusion: an international journal, 26 (6). pp. 573-589. ISSN 1758-7093

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Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the basis of the Low Pay Commission's (LPC) presumption of the “distinctiveness” of young workers aged 16 and 17 in the absence of any systematic and objective basis for determining “fair pay”. In the context of labour market theories and the issues they raise in relation to skill, training and pay, the paper questions the presumption that young workers are distinctive with reference to contemporary notions of skill and training requirements. Design/methodology/approach – Using a sub-sample of hospitality businesses in North Wales, the paper presents selected evidence from semi-structured interviews about firms’ pay and employment practices that included a systematic method to enable managers to provide some objectively justifiable measures of job content and perceptions of personal attributes in relation to the pay of 16- and 17-year-old workers compared with their older counterparts. Findings – Employers’ informal and pragmatic employment and pay practices both reflect and reinforce the LPC's presumption of distinctiveness for a predominantly student labour force. This indicative and exploratory method of quantifying jobs and personal attributes in relation to pay appears to have some validity, although the sorts of skills that are associated with young workers’ jobs may not be fully recognised or valued, reinforcing inequality and discrimination in some cases. Originality/value – In raising awareness of potential inequality of treatment and discrimination in the context of age discrimination legislation, the paper will be of interest to researchers in employment relations, human resource management, equality and diversity management, minimum wages and the hospitality industry.

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