Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ending youth-pay discrimination for good

Three years ago, Parliament passed the Minimum Wage (New Entrants) Amendment Act 2007, which effectively abolished youth rates. But while it ended pay discrimination against young people in a practical sense, this discrimination is still present in our law, in that section 30 of the Human Rights Act 1993 contains exemptions allowing it:

(2) Nothing in section 22(1)(b) of this Act shall prevent payment of a person at a lower rate than another person employed in the same or substantially similar circumstances where the lower rate is paid on the basis that the first-mentioned person has not attained a particular age, not exceeding 20 years of age.

(3) Nothing in section 22(1)(a) of this Act shall prevent preferential treatment based on age accorded to persons who are to be paid in accordance with subsection (2) of this section.

In English: you can pay an 18-year old less than a 20-year old, and you can refuse to hire someone because you won't be able to discriminate against them on the basis of age. And thanks to the quasi-constitutional status of the Human Rights Act, this discrimination is an underlying principle of New Zealand law. The existence of these exemptions means that laws permitting pay discrimination against young people do not violate the right to be free from discrimination in the Bill of Rights Act. And that is simply unacceptable. The Human Rights Act sets a default age above which it is illegal to discriminate of 16 years. And that should apply across the board.

Fortunately, Gareth Hughes, the Greens' newest MP has a bill to fix this. Hopefully it'll be drawn from the ballot soon. And then we can see where the Nats really stand on youth discrimination.