Isn’t it time we started thinking differently about equal pay across all age groups?

19th February 2019

Adam Rowledge, General Manager at Georgian House Hotel and champion of The AHC argues the importance of equal pay for all ages if we are to continue to attract young people to join the hospitality industry. An interesting piece providing much food for thought...

Earlier this year I read an article in the daily email briefing from Propel where McDonalds was actively promoting the measures they were taking to improve pay for the employees in the 20 and under age bracket. They announced they had increased the hourly rates for younger members of the team by the most (compared to any other age group) in percentage terms. They stated that they were “doing right by staff” and that “our people are at the heart of our business and, as a responsible and proud employer, we are comitted to investing in them.”

Why am I telling you this? Well, because when I initially shared my views on the article through a post on LinkedIn, I was intrigued by the responses I got and felt it should be read and discussed more widely. Anyone, regardless of age, that is fulfilling the same job role with the same duties should be paid the same wage. There are legal minimum wages for different age groups and some age groups are unable to perform certain tasks perhaps due to reasons of safety or law but to me, the 17 year old taking my order is performing the same duty to the 20 year old or the 26 year old, yet all could legally be paid different wages. Whilst I appreciate that for some businesses, it may be because they feel they cannot afford to pay everyone the same wage my response is - what will they do when younger people are no longer interested in joining our industry because they can find more attractively paid roles in retail? They will have to pay the going rate for whoever they can find which will likely be more than the National Living Wage(NLW) anyway, particularly that due to changing demographics there will be fewer people entering the workforce over the next ten years.

At Georgian House, we pay everyone the same rate of pay not only for doing the same job role regardless of age, but across the same pay level so that all entry level team members get the same and every supervisor the same. They are all paid currently 15% more than the NLW which in turn means that under 18s are paid more than double the legal minimum. 

So, what did those reading my comment think? Well the first response indicated that they felt that ”…customer service positions call for levels of empathy and customer interaction that may be far better served by someone who is older with better ‘life’experience….” Should we then take into account that other factors might affect other age groups within the workforce and pay then a lower wage because of it? Another shared my view and cited JD Wetherspoon as an employer as well as the rapidly growing gig economy as providing opportunities for young people to earn equal wages regardless of the National Minimum Wage for their age. The final comment brought me somewhat full circle and shared that when they started working for McDonald’s, aged 16 that it wasn’t the money that made them stay but the people, the development opportunities and the culture. However if we cannot attract people into the industry in the first place then all of the amazing things that we all know and love about our industry won’t make any difference to retain the people who just aren’t there.

According to the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, for millennials, the top factor in considering to work for an employer is the financial rewards and for Gen Z, which generally has fewer financial obligations, this was the second most important factor behind the desire to be part of a “positive workplace culture” so the signs are there for all to see. So, isn’t it time we started thinking differently about equal pay across all age groups?