Many employers will look to employ young workers or school children during the summer holidays. Employing staff under the age of 18 on a fixed term basis can be particularly beneficial when managing periods of peak business during the summer months, however you should be wary of the potential pitfalls that come along with this.

It is important to understand the different national minimum wage (NMW) requirements that apply to workers of varying ages, especially considering HMRC’s efforts to ‘name and shame’ NMW offenders. Those aged over the compulsory school age (16) must be paid a minimum of £4.20 per hour, increasing to £5.90 per hour when they turn 18. Alternatively, it is acceptable to employ someone below the compulsory school age, as long as they are at least 14 years of age, however these individuals have no entitlement to NMW. Employers should make sure HR and payroll departments work in unison to ensure individuals are paid the correct hourly rate in accordance with their age. Maintaining up to date personnel files will be key here to ensure staff continue to be paid correctly as they progress through the NMW age boundaries.

Rules around working hours also differ for those under the age of 18, therefore you should seriously consider what working patterns you need individuals to complete before hiring staff for the summer. Those aged between 16 and 17 can work for a maximum of 40 hours a week, limited to 8 hours in any one day. Whereas 15 and 16 year olds can only work 35 hours a week and 8 hours per day during school holidays. Finally, 14 year olds are restricted to a maximum of 25 hours a week during the school holidays, including just 5 hours a day and just 2 hours on a Sunday. These restrictions may be problematic for certain organisations, therefore thought should be given to what hours you require younger staff to work each week and whether multiple hires would be needed to properly account for your business’s needs.

There are also similar restrictions on the type of work individuals can participate in, as those under school leaving age are prohibited from working in an industrial setting, including manufacturing or construction work. Whilst these rules do not apply to those above the age of 16, employers are still advised to carry out separate risk assessments if they plan to employ any individual below the age of 18, ensuring they are protected from any additional risk to their health and safety.

When you decide to hire an individual below the age of 18 you should consider that for many this may be their first experience of work. As such it is important to welcome them into the business and put them through a complete company induction. Inductions are particularly important for those who may not have previous employment experience, allowing you to explain what is expected of them in regards to attendance and punctuality, as well as explaining their right as an employee to be protected from discrimination and harassment.

Whilst hiring workers under the age of 18 during the summer comes with obvious benefits it is important to proceed with caution. To ensure both parties benefit equally from the arrangement sufficient provisions must be in place to abide by existing legislation and provide the appropriate level of support.