Younger workers will not benefit from rises in the national minimum wage unless the government acts, the TUC warns today.
The new top rate — coming into force from next April — will only apply to workers over 25.
Pay rates for people aged 21 to 24 are rising more slowly than for older workers and the gap has widened by more than £400 a year, TUC research has shown.
It is calling for the minimum wage’s top rate — currently £7.50 — to be extended to all workers aged 21 and over, as well as for more resources to ensure the higher rate is enforced.
The upper rate should be set at £10 as soon as possible, it says, while the apprentice rate should only apply to intermediate-level apprentices who are aged 16-18 and 19-20 on starting.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Minimum wage pay rates aren’t increasing fast enough and the government’s target of £9 an hour by 2020 now seems a fantasy.
“Younger workers deserve to be treated fairly. Why are 21 to 24-year-olds getting less pay than their colleagues for the same work, when they face the same expenses as other adults and are highly productive?”
With employment, the economy and earnings set to grow next year, employers will be able to afford a decent rise in pay rates, the TUC said.
It also urged more employers to adopt the real living wage — which is based on what employees and their families need to live — as it will be good for their workers, and will also help attract and retain talent.