Children and young people in the UK are subject to limitations on hours and have special rights and protections on health and safety grounds. Emilie Bennetts explains what employers need to be aware of when employing under-18s.
I employ school leavers and part-time students to supplement my workforce. What do I need to be wary of?
The employment of children in the UK is subject to limitations regarding the number of hours they can work. They also have special rights and protections on health and safety grounds.
WHO IS A CHILD?
Someone under the compulsory school leaving age, which they reach on the last Friday in June in the school year in which they have their 16th birthday. A child can be 15 when reaching the school leaving age if his or her 16th birthday falls in the summer holidays. A young person is someone who has ceased to be a child, but is under 18.
WHAT IS EMPLOYMENT?
As well as employment in the normal sense, a person who helps in a trade or occupation carried out for profit is considered as employed even if he or she receives no payment. This would cover children or young people helping their parents in a restaurant, for example.
LIMITS ON AGE AND HOURS FOR CHILDREN
The general principle, subject to certain exceptions, is that a child under 14 cannot work. Those over 14 can only do light work and may not work:
Many of these rules can be relaxed by a local authority's byelaws, so check amendments.
Daily and weekly limits are set for young workers by the Working Time Regulations. They may not work more than eight hours in any one day and 40 hours in any one week.
Health and safety
An employer must carry out a risk assessment, considering issues such as the inexperience and immaturity of the young person and associated risks, including the equipment to be used.
No young person can be employed in any work:
National Minimum Wage (NMW) and Statutory Sick Pay
The NMW for young people is currently £3.53 per hour and is reviewed each October. There is no NMW for children still under the school leaving age. Workers aged 16 or over are entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay, but those aged under 16 are not.
The potential consequences of failing to protect young people and paying them at the right level are serious, so employers are advised to tread carefully when recruiting school leavers and part-time students. If in doubt, take advice.
Emilie Bennetts, solicitor, Charles Russell