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March 6 2017

When a Too High Minimum Wage Sidelines People Who Want to Work

by Charlotte Hays

I've hesitated to put this article from the (London) Spectator up because there are some pitfalls in making a comparisons to any U.S. minimum wage matters. Still, I've decided to call your attention to Rosa Monckton's piece.

It is headlined "Why People with Mental Disabilities Should Be Allowed to Work for Less than the Minimum Wage." As the mother of a daughter with Down's Syndrome, Monckton has first-hand experience with the subject.

Monckton is founder of a charity called Team Domenica, named for her daughter. The goal of the charity is to get jobs for young adults with learning disabilities.

Monckton writes:

Pay is the really thorny issue. The single thing that makes it most difficult to get people with learning disabilities into work is the ratcheting up of the minimum wage, which from 1 April goes up to £7.05 per hour if you are aged between 21 and 24, and £7.50 if you are older. On the whole, employers are not charities, and it is difficult for them to employ people if their output amounts to a loss. Most of our graduates will manage only eight to 15 hours a week. Yet even to raise the subject of exempting disabled workers from the minimum wage, letting employers pay them less, is to be considered brutish and inhumane.

Pay is the really thorny issue. The single thing that makes it most difficult to get people with learning disabilities into work is the ratcheting up of the minimum wage, which from 1 April goes up to £7.05 per hour if you are aged between 21 and 24, and £7.50 if you are older. On the whole, employers are not charities, and it is difficult for them to employ people if their output amounts to a loss. Most of our graduates will manage only eight to 15 hours a week. Yet even to raise the subject of exempting disabled workers from the minimum wage, letting employers pay

In 2011 a Conservative MP made a speech in the House of Commons on the employment opportunities bill. He declared it a scandal that only ‘6 per cent of people with learning disabilities have a job’ and said, ‘If legislators are not prepared to accept that the minimum wage is making it harder for some of those vulnerable people to get on the first rung of the jobs ladder, we will never get anywhere in trying to help these people into employment.’ For this thoughtful intervention, he was described as ‘insane’, ‘disgusting’, ‘like Hitler’. The Daily Mirror declared: ‘This is a contemptible bid to impose slave labour.’

Just over two years ago, Sigmund Freud’s great grandson Lord (David) Freud, then a minister in the DWP, was asked a question on the subject by a Tory councillor, David Scott, who said: ‘I have a number of mentally damaged individuals, who to be quite frank aren’t worth the minimum wage, but want to work… but you can’t find people who are willing to pay the minimum wage. How do you deal with those sorts of cases?’

Freud replied: ‘I know exactly what you mean, where actually as you say they’re not worth the full wage, and I’m going to go and think about that particular issue, whether there is something we can do nationally.’

The backlash was spectacular. Ed Miliband declared ‘The Nasty Party is back’; and various disability charities, such as Mencap, denounced Freud. Esther McVey, a fellow-Tory who was the disability minister in the same department as Freud, said on the BBC Daily Politics programme that ‘Those words will haunt him… he will have to explain himself.’

This is a touching story, and the only application I want to make is this: employers as a rule can only pay an employee for what he or she does. We all make decisions about hiring somebody to do something that reflect our ability to pay and what the person can provide: I can pay X, but not Y.

For many people, an entry level job is just that--an entry into the world of work. While some of those served by Team Domenica may not be able to move up to far better positions, they can still gain the dignity that work confers. Many others being kept out of the job market by a too high minimum wage could gain valuable experience and move up--if they could just get an entry level job in the first place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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