Employers may wish to hire young workers in half-term and in the run-up to Christmas. You need to be aware, however, that special employment rules apply.

Here are the top 8 things you need to be aware of when hiring a young worker – someone over the compulsory school age, but still under the age of 18.

1  Recruitment

Simply asking around or putting an ad in the local paper may not be the best approach to attracting young workers. The internet and social media sites often provide the start to their search for employment, so make sure you advertise on a wide range of different channels.

2  Restrictions on Employment

In practice, a young person in England is obliged to remain in some form of education or training until they reach the age of 18. This means that they must study full-time at school or college; undertake an apprenticeship or do a combination of part-time work and education or training.

This does not apply in Scotland and Wales – young workers are allowed to work full-time once they have reached the compulsory school age.

3  Type of Work

For young workers, there are some limitations to the types of work they can perform.

In general, they cannot do:

  • work which they are not physically or mentally capable of doing, or
  • work which brings them into contact with chemical agents, toxic material or radiation, or
  • work which involves a health risk because of extreme cold, heat or vibration.

It will only be permissible for them to do work in any of the above categories if it is necessary for the worker’s training, if there is an experienced individual supervising the work and the risk is diminished to the lowest reasonable level.

These rules will not apply if the young worker is undertaking short-term or occasional work in a family business.

4  Minimum Wage

The National Minimum Wage rate depends on the worker’s age and whether they are an apprentice.

The rates from 1 October 2016 are:

  • £7.20 per hour – 25 yrs old and over (known as the National Living Wage)
  • £6.95 per hour – 21-24 yrs old
  • £5.55 per hour 18-20 yrs old
  • £4 per hour – 16-17 yrs old
  • £3.40 for apprentices under 19 or 19 or over who are in the first year of apprenticeship.

 5  Working Time and Rest Breaks

The general rule is that young workers normally are not permitted to work more than 8 hours a day and 40 hours per week.

A younger worker must have 12 hours of rest between each working day and be given a rest break of 30 minutes when they work for longer than 4 and a half hours.

They are entitled to two consecutive days off per week. This cannot be averaged over a two week period, for instance work six days in one week and four days in the next.

6  Night Work

Typically, younger workers are not permitted to work at night between 10pm and 6am. There are some exceptions to the rule, for example, if the person works in agriculture, retail, hospitals, hotels, pubs, restaurants or bakeries. They may also work at night when the work is necessary to maintain continuity of service or production or to respond to demand for services or products, but certain conditions need to be fulfilled. However, they are not permitted to work between midnight and 4am, other than in very exceptional circumstances.

7  Health and Safety

Employers must carry out a risk assessment before employing someone under the age of 18. The assessment must take into account the worker’s age, lack of experience and maturity, training needed and what work equipment they can use.

8  Training and Supervision

Employers should make sure that young workers are adequately trained and supervised when at work. You may consider providing them with a mentor or buddy so that they can ask questions and talk to someone about their concerns. Remember that for many this will be their first job and they may not be used to the workplace environment

Please note that different rules apply for those under the compulsory school age.

If you wish to discuss the legal rules surrounding employing younger workers, please call your Employment Law Adviser.

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