Employing Children and Young People

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School children are often employed in the retail sector as Saturday staff or during the school holidays and many companies employ students and teenagers who have just left school. Children are those individuals under the minimum school leaving age and young workers or young people are those who are aged above the compulsory school leaving age of 16 and under 18. The earliest date that a young person can start full-time employment in England and Wales is the last Friday in June when they have completed year 11. It is not permitted for them to leave before that date even if they are already 16 years old. Local authority bylaws may allow children to undertake certain types of light work before the age of 14, but the general rule is that they must be 14 years of age to be employed. Children cannot be employed in the following circumstances:
  • before the end of school hours on any day when they must attend school
  • or more than two hours on any day when they are required to attend school
  • before 7.00 a.m. or after 7.00pm on any day
  • where the job requires them to lift or carry anything heavy which is likely to cause them injury.
These regulations do not apply to children undertaking work experience approved by the Local Education Authority during the last academic year of compulsory education or the preceding summer term. The permitted hours that children are able to work are prescribed in The Children (Protection at Work) Regulations 1998 which are as follows:
  • during school terms national working time limits are 2 hours for weekdays, 5 hours for Saturdays, (8 if the child is 15 or over) and 2 hours for Sundays
  • during school holidays, national working time limits are 5 hours for weekdays and Saturdays (8 if the child is 15 or over) within a weekly limit of 25 hours (35 if the child is 15 or over) and 2 hours for Sundays.
Children must have a one-hour rest break after four consecutive hours of working and also have a minimum of a two-week period free from any employment during their school holidays. Before employing a child, it is worth checking the Local Education Authority for any local authority bylaws that may apply. The Working Time Regulations stipulate the working hours of young workers and adults. For those who are between the compulsory school leaving age and 18, the following apply:
  • a daily rest break should be provided of not less than 12 hours in each 24 hour period during which the young worker works for the employer
  • a rest break for the young worker should be given of at least 30 minutes after 4.5 hours work
  • a weekly rest period of two days in every seven day period should be scheduled with days to be taken consecutively where possible.
  • free health assessments need to be offered to young workers before starting night work between the hours of 10pm and 6am and at regular intervals during their employment
There are also health and safety considerations that should be taken into account when employing children and young people for which appropriate advice should be sought.

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