10 Oct 2012

Starting-out wage welcomed by employers

7:53 am on 10 October 2012

Employers and industry representatives are welcoming a move back to youth wages, which they say will benefit young job seekers.

The Government is to introduce legislation that will result in eligible 16- to 19-year-olds being paid a "starting-out" wage that is 80% of the minimum wage, or $10.80 an hour, for the first six months of a new job.

Restaurant Brands, which runs Pizza Hut, KFC and Starbucks, says the company gives many high school students and school leavers a first job.

Chief executive Russel Creedy says that, at present, many teenagers in the final years of their schooling are not able to get work that gives them real world experience, because they've been put in a situation where they're not as competitive as they were a few years ago.

Mr Creedy says the pay of Restaurant Brands employees in the 16 to 19 age group won't be immediately affected by a law change, as a collective agreement is in place. He expects pay rates to be discussed at future contract negotiations.

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Bruce Robertson says the scheme will target people who have never been employed and lack skills.

"This change should provide that incentive for employers to take on these young kids, give them a chance, get them used to the work environment and hopefully also get them on to a training scheme."

Louise Evans McDonald from the Retailers' Association says about 70% of the organisation's members surveyed on youth wages last year were in favour.

But Council of Trade Unions vice president Maori, Syd Keepa, says lower pay rates will have no affect on getting Maori youth unemployment down.

If passed by Parliament, the changes are expected to be in place by April.