HR rules for young workers

Alan Price – CEO at BrightHR

April 21 2015

We are about to employ a 16 year old school leaver and would like to know whether there are any special HR arrangements that I need to be aware of when employing young workers?  Whilst most aspects of employment law will be the same for this employee as for anyone who is older i.e. rules on unfair dismissal, payment of SSP etc, there are some areas where they need to be treated differently from those older than them. This is seen mainly in their working time i.e. the amount of hours they are legally permitted to work. For the purposes of the Working Time Regulations 1998, which govern hours of work, this individual will be seen as a ‘young worker’. The working time of young workers (over school leaving age but under 18) is limited to 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. It is not generally permissible to average out the amount of hours worked over a reference period (adults are restricted to a maximum 48 hours per week but this can be averaged over a 17 week reference period). There are some exemptions to this, including where the employer requires the young worker to undertake work necessary either to maintain continuity of service/production. Additionally, adults are permitted to ‘opt out’ of the maximum weekly working hours so that they can work more hours per week, but young workers are not. Regulations generally prohibit young workers from working between the hours of midnight and 4am. The young worker’s education or training must not be adversely affected by working for the extra hours. Since the increase in the participation age (the age at which people must remain in some form of education, or a combination of education and employment), it is advisable to discuss with the employee the times when they are available to work so that they may still meet their other commitments. Young workers must have a daily rest break of at least 12 hours, so for example, if they finish work at 7pm, they should not start work again before 7am the next morning. They must also have a weekly rest period of 2 days per week but these do not have to be consecutive days. In addition, a young worker is entitled to have a rest break, during their daily working hours, of at least 30 minutes if their working period is more than 4.5 hours. The employee should be given a statement of main terms of employment in the same way as an older employee, and has the right to access the benefits provided to other employees which can be provided on a pro-rata basis in accordance with the number of hours they work. Age discrimination legislation prohibits employees being treated less favourably because of their age.

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