Positive discrimination for young people

We sometimes end up having those slightly awkward conversations with clients – “well, you know what we want to say… but are we allowed to say it?”. And so it goes on, a bit of sparring and talking around the subject, with the recruiter trying his or her best not to be discriminatory in any way, and us trying to find out what the real requirements are.

With most areas it’s quite simple and common sense – you can’t select someone or try and target anyone based on race, gender, sex, disability etc. There are some exceptions of course when something is absolutely required, but on the whole, you can’t discriminate.

National Apprentice ServiceAnd then there’s age. You can’t discriminate based on age either. That’s common sense. If you advertise a position and you get two applications, one from an 18 year old, and one from a 60 year old, you can’t just the 60 year old because you think they might be too old. Companies advertising internships (which are generally perceived to be for younger jobseekers) have to be careful here as well – and can’t just reject applicants because of their age.

But what apprenticeships and government funding? The whole idea of the funding is that the cost of recruiting for employers is lower, so that they can afford to employ more. The funding however isn’t equally distributed. Currently, the Government funds apprenticeship training for 16 – 18 year olds fully, but gives less funding for those who are 19 – 24, and even less for those 25 and above? I am definitely not saying this is wrong – or shouldn’t be done, but it raises some questions.

This can all be a bit problematic – especially for employers. If you want to take on an apprentice you need to know how much it is going to cost your business. Well, if you take on a 16 – 18 year you only have to pay them £2.60 per hour and you have no extra training costs. Take on a 19 – 24 year old and you have to pay for half their training as well, so it’s going to cost you more. Employ a 25 year old or over, and it’s going to cost you even more.

As a recruiter you are not allowed to discriminate and employ someone based on their age – but when different age people start costing you different amounts, how can you not take this into account? The government is completely right in doing more to tackle youth unemployment, but the danger is by introducing this scheme employers are more incentivised to flout the law, and take age into consideration when employing someone.

As mentioned, the scheme to tackle youth unemployment is not being questioned here. However one of the unintended consequences of it could end up putting employers in difficult positions, and some clarity is needed on what employers should be doing with regards to age discrimination when recruiting apprentices.

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