Asda to pay under 18s at the adult rate

Hundreds of young people in East Anglia will benefit from a decision by a major supermarket to pay staff under 18 the same rate as its adult workers.

Hundreds of young people in East Anglia will benefit from a decision by a major supermarket to pay staff under 18 the same rate as its adult workers.

Around 5,000 Asda employees aged between 16 and 18 will see their pay increase from £5.19 an hour to £5.71, at a cost of £1.7m to the company.

Younger workers will see their take home pay rise by £300 a year because of the increase, the first of its kind announced by a supermarket.

Matthew Cunningham, of advice and guidance service Connexions Norfolk, which helps 13 to 19-year-olds, last night welcomed the move.

"We are an agency that advocates on behalf of young people and we know that young people have skills and abilities that qualify them as much as older people.

"It's bringing equality to all people, regardless of age. We very much welcome what Asda are doing. It will be interesting to see what impact it has on other organisations … I think it's going to have very wide-ranging effects."

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Sarah Dickins, head of reward and recognition at Asda, said: "We simply don't see why young people under the age of 18 working in our stores should be paid any less for doing the same job as someone a bit older.

"With the new age discrimination rules, we've taken another look at all our policies and have decided we no longer think it's acceptable to have different pay rates for different age groups - you should be paid for the job you do, regardless of your age."

Unions have been campaigning for a much higher minimum wage and for younger workers to receive the same rate as adults, and the GMB hailed Asda's announcement as a "very important breakthrough".

The national minimum wage went up on Sunday to £5.35 an hour for adults, £4.45 for workers aged between 18 and 21 and £3.30 for 16 and 17-year-olds.

But last night other leading supermarket chains seemed reluctant to follow Asda's lead.

A spokesman for Sainsbury's said: "We are always looking at salaries but we have no plans to do this catch-up in under-18 and over-18 pay. We don't have a problem with recruiting under-18s, and the biggest area of our staffing is the over- 50s and under-25s."

A Morrisons spokesman added: "We currently have no plans to change our negotiated pay structure."

Asda has 311 stores across the UK, employing 150,000 workers, including thousands of 16 to 18-year-olds in jobs including check-out operators, porters and customer service assistants.