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Abolition of youth rates misleading

The Bill to abolish youth wage rates is being introduced to Parliament on a misleading basis, said Susan-Jane Davies, Head of EMA Legal, (the legal division of the Employers and Manufacturer's Association) today to Sue Bradford and the Parliamentary Select Committee considering her Bill.

The Explanatory Note to the Bill says that age discrimination is prohibited under s21 of the Human Rights Act 1993 and that New Zealand's commitment to ending age discrimination is affirmed by the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990. But the Bill of Rights Act does no such thing, says Ms Davies.

"The freedom from discrimination provisions in the Bill of Rights specifically do not include age," she said.

In fact, Ms Davies went on to say, discrimination on the grounds of age is not unlawful per se in New Zealand. The general rule under The Human Rights Act 1993 is that discrimination on the grounds of age for employees between the ages of 16 and 65 is prohibited, she said, "so, as the law stands, it is entirely legal to discriminate against a 15 year old or a 66 year old or older employee purely on age grounds." Even then, the Human Rights Act specifically allows further exceptions to the rule for 16 to 65 year olds on the grounds of age under s30(2) Human Rights Act 1993, she said.

So, Ms Davies told the Select Committee, Parliamentarians need to be clear that there is no such overriding legal commitment under the Bill of Rights Act to eliminate age discrimination. The real purpose of the Minimum Wages (Abolition of Age Discrimination) Bill is, as described by the Explanatory Note, to correct perceived injustices in legislating for "equal pay for work of equal value". The issue is therefore whether 16 and 17 year olds actually generate equal value.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association (Central) Inc (EMA Central) commissioned a survey of its members' views on youth wage rates in March this year. Most respondents were in favour of retaining youth wage rates. Employers commented that in their experience, young people's work is often not equal to that of older workers.

The results of the survey were summarised in EMA Central's submission, and have been posted on the website:


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