Young Workers

  • Employment Law
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

In this guide, we'll discuss young workers, the legal risks, and the benefits they can bring to your workforce.

As an employer, it's your legal responsibility to care for all staff. This means being aware of their employment rights and ensuring you comply with relevant legislation. Especially when hiring young workers.

Young workers can provide several benefits to your business, such as offering up new perspectives and being cost-effective. But, they also have their own set of employment rights you need to uphold.

If you fail to manage a young worker's employment, you might risk legal proceedings, hefty fines, and even claims to an employment tribunal.

In this guide, we'll discuss young workers, the legal risks, and the benefits they can bring to your workforce.

Who is classed as a young worker?

A young worker is a worker who is over the minimum school leaving age but under 18. In England, the Education and Skills Act 2008 states that a young worker between minimum school leaving age and 18 should either:

  • Be in full-time education or training. For example, school or college.
  • Take on-the-job learning. Such as apprentices.
  • Work or volunteer (for 20 or more hours a week), whilst in part-time education or training.

When can young people start work?

A young person can start full-time work once they’ve reached school leaving age. This is as long as employers comply with their other workplace rights.

What are the employment rights of young workers?

Young workers have different employment rights to workers over 18. if you don’t consider them, you could be at risk of unlawful business practice. Young workers' rights include:

  • Working day and hours: The law states that a young person cannot work more than eight hours a day. Similarly in a working week, they cannot work more than 40 hours.
  • Rest breaks: The rest breaks of young workers depend on the hours they work. If their working day is more than 4.5 hours, they are entitled to a 30-minute break.
  • Pay: Young workers aged 16-17 should be paid at least £5.28 per hour.
  • Trade unions: Young workers also have the right to join a trade union. They also don't need to advise their employer that they have joined one.

How many hours of rest does a young worker need between shifts?

A young worker should have twelve hours of rest in any 24-hour period in which they are working. And, 48 hours of rest taken together each week. This might not always be possible due to certain business reasons.

For example, if your business is in the retail sector - Christmas will be a busy period and you'll need staff to be more available. In this instance, you should provide the young person at least 36 hours' of continuous rest. The remaining twelve hours should be taken as soon as possible after the busy period.

Are young workers protected from discrimination?

Yes, the Equality Act 2010 does protect young workers from discrimination. Under the act, age is a protected characteristic. This means, if an employer treats a young worker unfairly because of their age, the law would class it as discrimination.

Ensure you recognise how and when a young person might experience discrimination, especially those that are particularly vulnerable. e.g. a young worker with a disability.

Can young workers work nights?

No, young workers cannot work nights or night jobs. Young workers can only work hours not within the 'restricted period'. This period is:

  • Between 10pm and 6am if their contract does not say.
  • Between 11pm and 7am if their contract allows for them to work after 10pm.

The benefits of employing young workers

As long as you comply with legislation, there are several benefits your business might gain from hiring young workers. These are:

  • Offers fresh perspectives: Employing young workers can allow for new perspectives and fresh ideas from a different generation - with different ways of thinking. For example, tech-savvy businesses may be attracted to hiring young people, as they might want to make the most of people who have grown up with technology.
  • Willingness to develop: Young employees can also be seen as a blank state to mould practices and preferences into, without having to break bad habits from their previous workplaces or work experience.
  • Cost-effective solution: Employing someone under 18 can often be a cost-effective solution since they have a lower national minimum wage rate. Not to mention, starting salaries usually don’t attract the same wage bill as adult workers.

Get expert advice on young workers from Peninsula

You should ensure you manage the employment of young workers properly. This includes providing appropriate rest breaks, limiting their working hours, and paying the national minimum wage.

If you don't, your business could face severe consequences. Such as, legal proceedings, legal costs, and even employment tribunal claims.

Peninsula offers expert advice on employing young workers. Our teams offer 24/7 HR advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our HR experts.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 029 4377 and book a free consultation with an HR consultant today.



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