Employing children and young people

20 July 2005
Employing children and young people

When school is out many students will be looking for placements or for those finishing their education, a first ‘proper job' or apprenticeship. It's undoubtedly an exciting and nerve wracking time for these young people and it can also be a difficult time for employers who are unprepared for accepting these new starters into their workforce.

Statistics from the Health and Safety Executive show that every year a number of young persons are killed or seriously injured in the workplace. This may be due to lack of awareness of risks by the employees, inadequate training by their employers or a failure by the employers to put proper safety control measures into place.

Employers should also be aware of safeguards in legislation governing the employment of children and young persons.

Businesses need to have health and safety strategies in place to ensure the well-being of young workers in order to protect both the inexperienced new employee and the employer's reputation and livelihood.

What kinds of accidents do young people have? Young workers, particularly those below school leaving age, are vulnerable due to their lack of experience, awareness of occupational risks to their health and safety and possible immaturity (both physical and mental). These factors put them at particular risk from all kinds of potential hazards. Common types of accidents (although not exclusive) include:

• being struck by a moving vehicle;
• being injured by machinery (particularly with respect to hair and clothes being pulled into moving machinery);
• injury due to incorrect manual handling procedures;
• injury due to slips, trips or falls;
• injury due to exposure to harmful chemicals; or
• injury from electrical equipment.

Risk management The law requires that employers control health and safety risks to employees and others ‘so far as is reasonably practicable'. This general requirement applies to young persons as it does to any other worker or person affected by a business's activities. Steps to ensure you are doing this include:

• Having a clear system in place to manage health and safety in the workplace. If you employ five or more people, then you must set this out in a written health and safety policy statement outlining procedures and designated representatives' roles. You will also need to appoint a competent person(s) to help you comply with your legal obligations.

• Identification of hazards and assessment of risks. Once assessed, risk control measures should be implemented and again if you employ five or more people, this should be documented. It is also essential that you inform, train and supervise your employees and especially young workers with respect to any measures you implement regarding risks and hazards.

• Clear administrative and reporting structures. For example, employees need to know how to report accidents and seek first aid assistance within your organisation; certain accidents will need to be reported to the HSE and the relevant forms will need to be completed; employers' liability insurance will be needed and your workforce and its representatives will need to be consulted on certain health and safety issues.

It is also good practice to set out a responsibilities checklist to accompany your policy on young workers. It should include things like:

• Have suitable and sufficient risk assessments been carried out?
• Have any additional control measures required for young workers been identified and implemented?
• Has appropriate supervision and induction training been organised?
• Have parents / guardians been informed of risk and control measures?
• Have tasks for young workers been properly defined and explained? Do they comprehend what is required of them to maintain the health and safety of themselves and others?
• Have young workers been informed adequately and given appropriate information on risks, hazards and precautions?
• Have activities from which young people should be prohibited been clearly identified? Has this been explained to them?
• Have steps been taken to ensure young workers are isolated from dangerous equipment or has it been made safe for them to be in contact with?
• Has someone been appointed to oversee the responsibility of supervising young workers or those on work experience placements?
• If students are on a work experience placement, has effective liaison been established with the placement organisers to report any accidents/ill-health/incidents/absences?
• Have risk assessments on any special needs required by young workers been carried out - for example physical or learning disabilities, health issues such as allergies or asthma, colour blindness or use of prescriptive medicines?

Relevant legislation Although young workers will be covered by general health and safety legislation, there are specific regulations which outline further your duty as an employer.

For example, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (which incorporate the provisions of the Health and Safety (Young Persons) Regulations 1997) require employers to:

• take account of young workers lack of experience, awareness and possible immaturity when assessing the risks to their health and safety;
• conduct a risk assessment before the young person commences working;
• take account of the risk assessment when determining whether or not the young person is prohibited from certain types of work (this however does not apply when the worker is over school-leaving age and will be required to carry out tasks under supervision as part of their training); and
• inform parents/guardians of school-age children of the outcome of the risk assessment and the control measures introduced to reduce those risks.

Employers must remember that young workers have the same protection as other employees with regards to health and safety and should perhaps even greater care will need to be taken as they are particularly at risk.

Due to the vulnerability of young workers, and especially those under school-leaving age, adequate supervision must be provided at all times by competent persons. In choosing a member of staff to fulfil this role, care must be taken to ensure that the person involved not only has an understanding of risks, hazards and control measures, but also possesses the skills needed to mentor and guide a young person in the workplace. Active listening, an ability to assess capabilities, inform, instruct, guide, motivate and discipline if necessary are all skills required of a competent supervisor.

Provisions governing the employment of children and young workers
What is a child?
For the purposes of the statutory provisions relating to employment for children, a ‘child' is a person not over compulsory school age i.e. under 16 years old (unless the individual is due to turn 16 before the following school year commences).

Am I allowed to employ children? In general, no child may be employed whether paid or not, if he is under the age of 14. Children over the age of 14, but under 16, may be employed although not at any time in a year unless at that time they have had during a school holiday at least two consecutive weeks without employment. Also, they may only be employed to do light work (light work is defined as work which is not likely to be harmful to a child's safety, health, development, attendance at school or participation in work experience).

Do I require special permission?
Local authorities are empowered under the Children and Young Persons Acts 1933 and 1969 (as amended), to pass bye-laws restricting the employment of children. The local authority may also, therefore, require particulars of how the child is to be employed and at what times and for what periods from the child's parents or employer.

How old do they have to be?
As mentioned above, no child may be employed if under 14 years old. Limited work may be carried out as follows:
• a child over 14 but under 15 may not work for more than five hours on any day (other than Sunday) upon which he is not required to attend school;
• a child over 15 but under 16 may not work for more than eight hours on any day (other than Sunday) upon which he is not required to attend school;
• a child over 14 but under 15 may not work for more than 25 hours in any week in which he is not required to attend school;
• a child over 15 but under 16 may not work for more than 35 hours in any week in which he is not required to attend school.

Are there hours restrictions?
A child may not work before the close of school hours on any day on which he is required to attend school or before 7 o'clock in the morning or after 7 o'clock in the evening on any day.

They may also not work for more than two hours on any day upon which he is required to attend school, or for more than twelve hours in any week in which he is required to attend school. A child may also not work for more than two hours on any Sunday. However, the Education Act 1996 provides that with certain exceptions, the enactments relating to the prohibition or regulation of the employment of a child in his last two years of compulsory schooling shall not apply where the employment follows arrangements made as part of his education either by the Local Education Authority or by the governing body of a school.

Additionally, a child may not work for more than four weeks on any day without a rest break of at least one hour.

What about the sale of alcohol?
Under the Licensing Act 2003. an employer will be liable for a fine of £200 if he knowingly allows an individual under 18 to sell (or, in the case of a club, supply) alcohol unless each sale (or supply) has been specifically approved by a responsible person (generally a supervisor, or a person over 18 who has been approved by a supervisor). This does not apply for alcohol sold for consumption with a table meal in premises used only for the serving of table meals.

What about people over 16 but under 18?
A person over 16 but under 18 is termed a ‘young person' for statutory purposes. Young people may be employed full time if they are school leavers or, if not, then they may be employed subject to the hours limitations mentioned above. Employees aged 16 or 17 who are not in full time education and have not achieved the prescribed standard of achievement, are entitled to be permitted to take time off during the employer's working hours in order to undertake study or training leading to a relevant qualification.

What restrictions are there on employing young people?
As well as the health and safety restrictions mentioned above, young people are entitled to 2 days off a week and employers must undertake a health and capacities assessment before being required to perform night work, and periodically thereafter.

Are there any limitations on hours for young people?
Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, an employer should not allow a young worker (defined as over compulsory school age but under 18 years old) to work between the period of 10pm to 6am (or, where it is contractually agreed, 11pm to 6am). There are certain exceptions which apply to employment in, for example, a catering business, a hotel, a restaurant, or a bakery but a young worker must never work between the hours of 12am and 4 am.

The maximum amount of time that a young worker may work is 40 hours a week or eight hours in any one day.

Young workers are entitled to a minimum 30 minute rest break after 4½ hours of continuous work. They must also be given 2 days off per week and must have a minimum daily continuous rest period of 12 hours.

Every workplace can benefit from passing on their skills and experience to young workers. Robust systems put into place now could enhance your business and productivity for years to come. Businesses need to remember that they need to protect and train the workforce of the future with sound working and health and safety practices.

Jonathan Exten-Wright is a partner in the Employment Department of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary UK LLP.
jonathan.exten-wright@dlapiper.com / www.dlapiper.com

Ailish Oxenforth is an Associate in the Regulatory Group of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary UK LLP

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