The National Living Wage rate of £7.20 has been in place since 1 April this year and is payable to workers who are aged 25 or over. Since its introduction, there has been on-going concern about whether this would mean that employers will discriminate against older workers in favour of a younger (and therefore cheaper) workforce. MPs in Westminster will be debating this very issue later this afternoon.
Employers should remember that despite perhaps being tempted to try and reduce costs by employing only those aged 24 or under, in doing so they would risk employment law claims against them. To refuse to hire someone on the basis of their age means that the unsuccessful candidate could have an age discrimination claim against the employer. Whilst discrimination can sometimes be justified, it is unlikely that cost concerns alone will provide a valid defence for the employer.
Employers should conduct their recruitment process on the basis of merit, selecting the best candidate for the role regardless of their age.
The introduction of the NLW alongside a new 21-24 year old age band led to renewed interest in the rationale behind NMW age-banding, fears that workers over 25 would be discriminated against in favour of younger, cheaper, workers and concerns that workers aged 21-24 are now ineligible for the full minimum wage.