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Comm'n backs abolishing min wage discrimination

Human Rights Commission
Media Release
9 November 2006

Commission backs abolishing minimum wage discrimination

Youth pay rates for 16 and 17-year-olds are discriminatory and breach the basic concept of equal pay for work of equal value, says EEO Commissioner, Dr Judy McGregor.

The Human Rights Commission today welcomed proposed legislation to abolish a minimum wage differential based on age. Currently 16 and 17 year olds can be paid a minimum wage of $8.20 per hour compared to the adult minimum of $10.25 per hour.

“Young people are justifiably angry about working for less pay alongside adults doing exactly the same job. Some employers also recognise that it is unfair and discriminatory and have moved to abolish youth rates and they should be congratulated,” Dr McGregor said.

BP Oil and the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union have agreed to abandon youth rates and Restaurant Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks) and the Unite! union have negotiated to increase pay rates for staff under 18 years to 90 percent of the adult wage.

In a submission to the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee on the Minimum Wage (Abolition of Age Discrimination) Amendment Bill, the Human Rights Commission said:

- the youth minimum wage has a significant impact on the earnings of young workers

- it perpetuates stereotypes about their capabilities and that they are worth less because they are young

- paying 16 and 17-year-olds less than other workers breaches fundamental principles of fairness and equity and contravenes international human rights conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

- there is no strong, valid evidence that youth unemployment will rise as a consequence of 16 and 17-year-olds being paid equally at the adult rate

- the Commission supports the repeal of ss30(2) of the Human Rights Act 1993 which provides an exemption to age as a ground of discrimination. The exemption allows those aged 20 or under to be paid less than those over that age employed in the same or substantially similar work.

The Commission also said:

- the proposed legislation is silent on minimum wage protections for workers under the age of 16 years and this should be rectified

- disabled people are exempt from access to the minimum wage and this discrimination is not justifiable. By contrast the new Australian Fair Pay Commission last month (27 October, 2006) set the minimum wage for employees with disability at an amount equal to that of the standard federal minimum which is available to all Australian workers.


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