Employment law for young workers

17 March 2020

There may come a time where your business considers taking on younger workers. After all, they’re cheaper than adults to hire and, provided you find the right worker, can be quite enthusiastic to learn.

However, if this is something you want to do, you should make sure you are familiar with under 18 employment laws in the UK.

You can speak to us on 0800 028 2420 for immediate assistance.

Or you can read our guide, which includes important details on the employment laws you’ll need to follow. 

What’s a “young worker”?

First off, let’s clarify what this is. Young workers are those who are over compulsory school age, but not yet 18.

Working time for these workers is at a limit of eight hours a day and 40 hours a week.

There are some exemptions to this, including where the employer requires the young worker to undertake work necessary to maintain either continuity of service or production.

But the young worker’s education or training must not be adversely affected by working these extra hours.

Young people who left school in summer 2014 must now stay in education or training until the age of 18. One option is to work full time (20 hours or more per week), combined with part-time education or training.

If you employ someone under these circumstances, it’s not your responsibility to ensure they’re continuing with their part-time work. However, this may change in the future.

Compulsory school age

Before we get started, it’s important to note that local bylaws will list the jobs that children can and can’t do. They may also have other restrictions in place.

It’s important you contact your local council for more information before looking to hire children.

When employing young workers, you need to understand how the compulsory school age impacts upon employment law for minors in the UK.

Basically, a person past this age once they have left school, however this does differ slightly depending on where you are in the UK:

  • In England and Wales, an individual can leave school on the last Friday in June if they are 16, or will be 16 by the end of the summer holidays.
  • In Scotland, an individual can leave school in two scenarios: after 31st May if they turn 16 between 1st March and 30 September, or at the start of the Christmas holidays if they turn 16 between 1 October and the end of February.
  • In Northern Ireland, an individual can leave school after 30th June if they turn 16 between 1st September and 1st If they turn 16 between 2nd July and 31st August, they need to wait until 30th June the following year.

Employment law for 16 year olds

There are two major areas to employing 16 year olds in UK law. These are:

  1. Pay.
  2. Working time.

Employment law for 16 and 17 year olds dictate that young workers of these age groups, who are over the compulsory school age can only work for a maximum of 40 hours a week, have a limit to eight hours a day. They can’t opt out of this or do night work.

You must also pay them a minimum of £4.35 per hour. That amount is increasing to £4.55 an hour from 6th April 2020.

If they stay with you past their 18th birthday, remember they’ll then go up to a national minimum wage bracket and you must pay them more. 

Employment law for 15 year olds

What are the employment laws for 15 year olds? Can you employ them at all?

Well, the short answer is yes but employment law for under 16 year olds, or 16 year olds under the compulsory school age, does differ.

Here, they can only work 35 hours a week and eight hours per day during the school holidays. Unlike what's specified in employment law for 16 to 18 year olds, there's no requirement to pay them the national minimum wage.

Employment law 14 year olds

13 and 14 year olds have restrictions to a maximum of 25 hours a week during the school holidays, including just five hours a day and just two hours on a Sunday.

Again, they have no entitlement to the national minimum wage.

14 year olds must NOT work:

  • Before 7am and after 7pm on any day.
  • More than two hours on any school day.
  • During school hours.
  • More than five hours on a Saturday or on weekdays during school holidays.
  • More than two hours on a Sunday.
  • More than 12 hours in a school week.
  • More than 25 hours a week during school holidays.

Employment law 13 year olds

The youngest age at which a child can work is 13. The only exception to this rule is when they’re involved in television, theatre or modelling, but even then they’ll need a performance license.

Essential tips for hiring young workers

Finally, here’s a quick summary of five essential points to remember—should you wish to hire anyone under the age of 18. These are:

  1. There’s a difference between “children” and “young workers” to remember. This depends on whether the young individual has reached compulsory school leaving age. That’s different across England, Scotland, and Wales.
  2. Understand the hour restrictions and break requirements depending on their age. And no young worker should do their job at night, except in specific circumstances (such as if no adult can’t perform the duty).
  3. You don’t have to pay the national minimum wage they the young worker has reached the compulsory school leaving age.
  4. Remember that age is one of the protected characteristics. Ageism is a serious issue under the Equality Act 2010. This means you shouldn’t treat younger workers less favourably than the rest of your staff.
  5. You should also ensure you provide the individual with extra support, where necessary. They’re young and inexperienced, so it’s important to develop their skillset in timely fashion.

Need our help?

We can help you with any queries about hiring young workers, with extra information on how they can support your existing workforce: 0800 028 2420.

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