As always, 1 April saw an increase in the national minimum wages, across the age brackets. Contrary to previous employers, my current workplace pays everyone the over 25 wage, and therefore I was pleased with my increase, though it is still classed as a minimum. This is because, regardless of age, we perform the same work: our job titles are the same, our shift patterns are the same, and managerial expectations of us are the same.
Having worked from a young age, I’ve been exposed to various age-related pay-grades, and I have regularly felt the injustice of these. Understandably, the argument for different pay brackets is not only different financial responsibilities, but also to, supposedly, help young people who have never worked before gain experience. In my experience, this does not weigh out what feels like exploitation, when you are a 17-year-old working for what is now £4.35, doing the exact same job as a 25-year-old, who is on £8.21. Granted, the majority of teenagers are not responsible for rent, or food bills, but many 18-year-olds are, and they are still being paid £2.06 less an hour than their ‘adult’ colleagues.
It’s very difficult to swallow when you are a hard worker, and you watch those earning much more than you perform the bare minimum, whilst you put in your all, in order to maintain a job you need to pay your rent, to support your dependents, to earn a living. Age does not always determine financial need, and it certainly does not determine work ethic. Under the age of 18, whilst your colleagues are getting almost double your wage for the same hours, are you also expected to do half the work? Absolutely not, and anyone who says otherwise has clearly never worked a minimum wage job before. Though under-18s have more working rights than those over, such as guaranteed breaks after 4 hours, certain hours they are not permitted to work, this does not mean that the hours they are working are any less valid than those worked by others, or, unfortunately, that the company they work for will always abide by these restrictions. Though not all under 25s have the same financial commitments as overs, equally not all over 25s have children to feed, are paying their own rent, or have anyone who depends on their earning. It is not acceptable to call an 18-year-old an adult, give them adult accountability and responsibilities, and yet pay them so significantly less for the same job. It doesn’t wash when men are paid more than women, and it absolutely should not when it comes to age. If I’m being paid 25% less for every hour I work stacking the exact same number of shelves as someone else, then should my rent not be 25% less per mont