Hospitality businesses which take on young people over the summer may face legal action if they pay them more than the national minimum wage, lawyers have warned.

Employers are entitled to pay workers under 22 less than other staff without having to justify their decision, however, only if those younger workers are compensated less than the "adult" national minimum wage rate of £5.35.

Those employers that paid students and holiday workers more than the adult minimum wage rate, but less than older workers, could be charged with unlawful age discrimination, said law firm Wedlake Bell.

David Israel, employment partner at Wedlake Bell, said the issue of age discrimination laws applied particularly to hotels, bars, restaurants and retailers, which generally employ students and young people.

"Unfortunately, employers may well be discouraged from being generous to their staff because of these quirks in the age discrimination rules,” he said.

“If they fear they could be caught out by paying above the national minimum wage, even if they may be able to subsequently justify their actions, they may decide just to stick to the minimum wage simply to avoid any risk whatsoever."

A recent study, commissioned by the British Retail Consortium and compiled by Oxford University, found that 96% of workers in the hospitality industry earned minimum wage.