For many young people, GCSE results day marks the end of the summer holidays. It heralds the return to school or university to take A-Levels, start an apprenticeship or undertake a vocational course. Many young workers will also seek employment for financial reasons and to gain work experience.
In most cases, they will only be 16 years old and considered ‘young workers’ by law. Kirstie Beattie, Senior Employment Solicitor of employment law and HR support firm WorkNest, explains the legal issues to consider when employing young workers.
Legal considerations include working hours, minimum wages for young workers, age discrimination and health and safety rules.
What does the law say?
Young workers are defined by the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR 1988) as people under 18 years of age but over compulsory school age and have various employment rights to protect them at work.
The law generally imposes restrictions on the employment of young people under 18 to ensure that their health, safety and development are not affected.
How many hours?
In general, young workers are entitled to longer rest periods and breaks than adult workers and cannot work more than 40 hours a week. They can also only work eight hours a day.
A young worker may also not work during the ‘restricted period’, which is between 10 pm and 6 am or between 11 pm and 7 am, depending on their contract.
They cannot work at night
Young workers cannot, therefore, generally be employed as ‘night workers’. There is a limited exception to this rule, apart from cases of “force majeure”, which are not very frequent.
What about pay?
In terms of pay, there is the rate for young workers. Currently, the national minimum wage for a young worker is generally £4.81 per hour. Paying a lower minimum wage is not considered discriminatory in terms of age.
It is important to remember that age is a protected characteristic. Employers must not discriminate by treating a job applicant or employee less favourably than others because of their age without objective justification.
The Equality Act also protects against age discrimination in employment in relation to promotion, reward and recognition, dismissal and vocational training.
Health and Safety
Employers of young workers must also assess the impact of their policies and practices to ensure that they do not have a disproportionately negative impact on a particular age group.
The employer of a young worker must also comply with a number of health and safety regulations. Employers must ensure that young worker is not exposed to any risks due to their lack of experience, ignorance of existing or potential risks and/or lack of maturity.
Young people may also need additional training or closer supervision from employers to minimise workplace hazards and comply with regulations.