Employing a young workforce and knowing the law

Businesses stand or fall on the quality of their people – and if your company can’t recruit enough staff with the right level of skills and experience, that’s potentially a serious problem.

Many business sectors in the UK and Ireland are reporting a worrying shortage of skilled employees which is having a direct knock-on effect widespread across all industries.   The impact of Brexit and Covid 19 has resulted in a huge number of foreign employees, who would have filled many of these currently vacant posts previously, returning back to their homelands.


One way of counteracting these staff shortages is to employ local young people.  Coincidentally, young people aged 16-24 make up the largest portion of unemployed people in the UK so it makes great sense to endeavour to utilise what we have immediately available.

Employing young people has historically been a financially attractive way to see through particularly busy periods offering casual, temporary work but for skilled trades, employing young people requires investment, time and they have addition employment rights.



Here is a handy checklist for employing younger people, along with a couple of more general tips to help you tackle these staffing problems head on!

  1. Know your minimum wage


Reflecting their lack of experience, young employees are paid a lesser hourly rate than those aged 21 and above.  Ensure you are paying them at least the appropriate hourly minimum wage rate for their age.


2. Working hours and rest break rules are different


Be aware of the rules surrounding working hours and rest break entitlements as these differ for employees dependant on their age.  For example, employees under the age of 18 years old must receive a minimum of a 30 minute uninterrupted break if they work more than 4.5 consecutive hours.


Those aged 18 years and over must receive at least a 20 minute break uninterrupted break if they work more than 6 consecutive hours.


The breaks do not have to be taken at the end of the 4.5 or 6 hours, they can be taken some time during this period and there is no legal entitlement for employers to pay employees for their breaks.



3. There are restrictions on night work


With the exception of work in hospitality, hospitals, agriculture, retail and culture/arts activities, an employee under the age of 18 should not be expected to work after 10pm and before 7am.  They should not be made to work more than eight hours per day or more than 40 hours per week.

They will only be able to work longer hours if they either need to:

  • keep the continuity of service or production
  • respond to a surge in demand for a service or product

and provided that:

  • there is no adult available to do the work
  • their training needs are not negatively affected

They should also be supervised at all times.



4. Health and safety


It only stands to sense that employers must protect the health and safety of all employees as far as reasonably practicable – no matter what their age. There is specific provision under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 addressing the safety of young workers (under 18).


This act explains that a young employee must not be exposed to risk due to a lack of experience, lack of maturity or by being unaware of existing or potential risks. There are several areas for you to consider including workplace layout, training and work equipment among others.


5. Keeping records


Good HR is often underpinned by good record keeping, and this is certainly relevant when employing young people. In fact, there are some legal requirements to be aware of. You must keep records for two years of the following:

  • The average weekly working hours as proof they are not working over the 8-hour limit per day.
  • Night work when it has been required.
  • Health assessments offered throughout their employment.


Further considerations


Following on from the pandemic, there has been a massive shift in not only how we recruit new employees, but in how we hold on to the ones we have already!  Whatever the ages of any new employees you take on, you may find that things like your workplace culture, training and development and employee benefits packages may need a review or some improvement.


At Consult HR, we specialise in offering experienced advice and guidance beginning at the point of recruitment and following through to all HR related matters for all staff.  If you would like any further information or advice, contact Julie on 07858 089006 or by email to julie@consulthr.co.uk.