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Hiring Young Workers

Staff Squared date icon18th September 2017

Tag iconManaging staff

Hiring young workers can have many benefits. From the energy and enthusiasm they can bring to a role, to the financial benefits of being able to offer lower salaries, it can be attractive to recruit younger job seekers to your workforce, especially if you’re looking to mould the ideal employee over a long career.

Yet before you start hiring school leavers to fill every vacancy, there’s much to consider. There are a number of responsibilities that you need to consider when taking on school leavers. Not only that, there are potential drawbacks – they may not be experienced enough to carry out many duties, and they’re often naïve when it comes to business behaviours, including what you may consider to be basic etiquette.

Here are some of the things to think about when hiring young workers, to make sure you’re prepared for the extra responsibilities, and fully compliant with the law.

Working hours and overnight working

When it comes to working hours for younger employees, there are a number of restrictions to consider. 16 and 17 year olds are entitled to at least 48 hours of rest every week. This is uninterrupted – so they can’t work 6-day weeks. They’re also entitled to 12 hours of rest within every 24 hour period when they are working, and if their shifts last longer than 4.5 hours they are permitted at least a 30 minute break.
They have the same rights to annual leave as any other employee too – at least 5.6 of their normal working weeks. So if they’re employed full time for five days a week, that’s 28 days they’re entitled to take.

When it comes to night working, there are even more restrictions. In most cases, young workers aren’t allowed to work during the night. This counts as the hours from 10pm to 7am. There are a few industries where overnight work is allowed for younger workers – hospitals or similar, advertising, or sporting and cultural activities.

Beyond that, 16-17 year olds can work between the hours of 10pm and midnight, and 4am to 7am, in a few other selected industries, including farming and agriculture, postal or newspaper deliveries, bakeries and catering, or hotels and restaurants.
If your business has an emergency or accident, or a sudden demand for services, a young person can work outside the normal hours. However, you’ll need to be able to prove that the work is temporary, and that it couldn’t be carried out by any other employees that are aged 18 or over.

Education and training

In England, anyone under the age of 18 must remain in some form of education or training. The only exception is anyone who’s already completed a level 3 educational training qualification. This training or education can be full- or part-time, and can include work-based learning like apprenticeships or training. Volunteering can also count, as long as it’s for at least 20 hours a week. Therefore, you’ll need to make sure the education needs of your young employees are being met.

The National Minimum Wage for young workers

Just as with any employee of your business, young workers are entitled to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage. This rate is reviewed every year, so you’ll need to make sure you update your payroll details if the rates change. As of 1st April 2017, the National Minimum Wage for workers aged 16-17 years old is £4.05 per hour. If you’re hiring apprentices, this is slightly different. Apprentices under the age of 19 years old are entitled to a minimum wage of £3.50 per hour.

Equality for young workers

The Equality Act 2010 set out the laws on how to treat employees, job seekers and anyone who is training at your business. One of the focuses of the Equality Act is age discrimination. If you discriminate against a young worker based on their age, you’d be breaking the law and liable to legal action. There are four defined types of age discrimination within the Equality Act:

  • Direct discrimination – this is when you treat an employee less favourably, only because of their age. It’s also clearly defined that this doesn’t have to be their actual age, but the age at which they are perceived.
  • Indirect discrimination – this is when you have a policy, a business rule or a process that applies to all of the workers in your business, that disadvantages people of a certain age group.
  • Harassment – this is when an employee feels they are in an offensive environment due to conduct of either yourself or another employee, related to their age. Even what may be viewed as humour or ‘banter’ could be classed as harassment if the victim feels uncomfortable
  • Victimisation – if a young worker makes a complaint based on age discrimination, or has supported another young worker in their claim, you cannot treat them unfairly as this would be victimisation

Make sure you set a strong example and ensure your employees are all aware of these rules to avoid any discrimination in the workplace.

Health and Safety

Again, young workers are entitled to exactly the same health and safety rights as any other employee, and as an employer you are equally as responsible for their actions. You must make sure they’re familiar with any health and safety procedures related to your business, and that they don’t take any risks.

Remember that young workers may need more support and training, to make sure they can carry out their duties in a safe and responsible way that doesn’t put other employees in harm’s way. It may be best considering what duties are best suited to your young employees – often heavy machinery or equipment should be limited by age to avoid accidents.

Risk vs reward with young workers

Hiring a young person clearly has its advantages but you must be fully prepared for the associated risks and responsibilities that come with it. By following this guidance, you can ensure a happy workforce whether creating a young team or a business that spans several generations.

Written by Sherree Tibbs

Customer Care Team Manager - Staff Squared

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