Under-18s to get minimum wage

Workers under the age of 18 will receive the national minimum wage for the first time, while the rate for adults is expected to rise to more than £5 an hour next year.

Workers under the age of 18 will receive the national minimum wage for the first time, while the rate for adults is expected to rise to more than £5 an hour next year.

Ministers will announce next week that 16- and 17-year-olds will qualify for a minimum wage of about £3 an hour, a move that will benefit tens of thousands of young people. The minimum pay for 18- to 21-year-olds, currently £3.80 an hour, is expected to rise to £4.10 and the adult rate from £4.50 to £4.85 an hour.

The Government will portray the rises as an example of its "social justice" agenda and hopes it will appeal to the Labour Party and trade unions, who have long campaigned for a minimum wage of £5 an hour. But the move has caused a squabble among ministers over who should get the credit by making the announcement.

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had intended to make the minimum wage an important plank of his Budget next Wednesday. But Tony Blair jumped the gun during Prime Minister's Questions yesterday. Mr Blair trailed the rise in the adult rate to £4.85 an hour in October and hinted strongly that young workers would benefit for the first time. He said: "I hope next week we will be able to say more about the national minimum wage and its impact on young people, which will no doubt find support at least on this side of the House."

Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary, intends to make the formal announcement before the Budget, probably on Monday, because she believes the issue comes under her department's remit. About 1.6 million people will be helped by the rise in the rate for workers aged 22 and above. The 7 per cent increase is well above inflation, but the Low Pay Commission, which advises on the rate, has backed the move. Another increase is due to be announced in a year, in the run-up to a general election, which is expected to take the figure to about £5.20.

The commission has also given its approval for the introduction of a new lower rate for young workers. The Government asked it to investigate the proposal after unions complained that young people were being exploited. Ministers were anxious to pitch the level of the wage at a cautious rate so it did not deter teenagers from continuing their education.

Research by the commission found the average hourly rate payable to 16- and 17- year-olds was about 80 per cent of the £3.50 youth minimum rate. There was evidence that some employers in low-paid industries, such as hairdressing, were using apprenticeships, which are not covered by the minimum wage, to pay significantly less than the legal minimum. The commission said: "Some employers are using the exemptions available in relation to modern apprenticeships to offer very low rates of pay. This may lead to these opportunities been less valued by young people."

Mr Brown, who is keen to expand the number of apprenticeships, may seek to close this loophole in his Budget.

Unions have accused firms of pitching vacancies at 16- and 17-year-olds to cut costs. One survey cited a trainee painter and decorator in Kent who was paid £1.25 an hour, a car valet in Cheshire offered the same amount and an office junior in Plymouth paid £1.50 an hour.

In the Commons, the Labour MP Liz Blackman said many young people in her Erewash constituency in Derbyshire "have no earnings potential and are open to exploitation by some unscrupulous bosses who pay them a pitiful wage for often quite responsible jobs".

Mr Blair criticised Michael Howard, the Tory leader, who claimed while he was Employment Secretary that a national minimum wage could cost two million jobs. "Some people said unemployment would go up. Actually, we have one and three quarter million more jobs in the British economy," Mr Blair said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'