Young Workers - Your responsibilities as employers

1 May, 2013
Pat Perry

Most employers will, at some point in the week or seasonally, employ young workers. In the eyes of the law, these 'young workers' are classified as under 18, or sometimes more specifically as 'children', that is under 16 years.

"In our experience, typically these young people will be employed in basic functions, perhaps in a wash-up role or waiting tables during the busy Sunday Lunch service. Whilst these may seem like simple roles, they still need the same time invested to educate them in matters relating to health and safety - and be warned, the stakes are high" said Pat Perry, Executive Chairman at leading health and safety consultants, Perry Scott Nash.

Why do employers need to look after young persons?

Thousands of young people have accidents at work every year, some of them are fatal.

What can young people of school age do?

Young persons (under 18's) are considered to be at particular risk of injury or ill health at work, due to their lack of experience or possible immaturity. As a result, there are strict controls on the type of work they can undertake.

Employment of young persons who are still of school age must be in line with The Children (Protection at Work) Regulations 1998 which states:

Under 13 years old
Not allowed to work.

13 years old
Light work in agriculture or horticulture, newspaper delivery, shops, hairdressers, cafés, stables, kennels and office work.

14 years old and over (under 18)
Light work, which is not harmful to their safety, health and development and does not interfere with their school day.

Young people of school age cannot work in a:

  • Cinema, theatre, disco, nightclub or dance hall.
  • Commercial kitchen, slaughter house, butchery or prepare meat for sale.
  • Fairground, amusement arcade or premises with game and gambling machines.

Young people of school age cannot:

  • Collect or sort rubbish
  • Work more than 3 metres off the ground
  • Sell or deliver alcohol, deliver milk or fuel oils
  • Collect money, sell or canvas door to door or by telephone
  • Be responsible for the personal needs of residents in care.

When can/can't a young person of school age work?

  • No work during school hours
  • No work before 7.00 am or after 7.00pm
  • Up to 12 hours per week in term time
  • Up to 2 hours on a school day or Sunday
  • Up to 5 hours on any other day (8 hours if over 15)
  • Up to 25 hours a week during school holidays (35 hours if 15 or over)
  • Up to 4 hours without a break of one hour

Any young person who is of compulsory school age must have a work permit, which is issued by their local council. It is up to the employer to apply for the permit within a week of the young person starting work.

What do employers need to do in relation to young persons?

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 an assessment of the risks to health and safety of the young worker must be undertaken.

On the first day of employment and before commencing any work activities a risk assessment must be completed and the necessary training given to the young worker. The training should be based on the risk assessment and safe working procedures, which are contained within the company health and safety policy.

Employers are required to protect young persons from the risk of accidents or ill health, which they themselves are unlikely to recognise because:

  • They are inexperienced
  • They have not been trained
  • They may not understand safety and danger

Where the person is below the minimum school leaving age, the parents or guardians must be informed of the key findings of the risk assessment and any control measures that have been taken to protect the young person's health and safety. The employer should notify the parents or guardian prior to the young person commencing work. It is suggested that a copy of the risk assessment is sent to the parents or guardian.


Training is a key part of employing young persons and should be carried out as soon as they start work, but before they undertake any work activity, process or task. They must be trained to do the work without putting themself, or anyone else, at risk.

An important part of the training is to ensure that the young person has understood the training and information they have been given.

  • Do they understand the hazards and risks of the workplace?
  • Do they understand the basic emergency procedures e.g. fire evacuation, first aid and accident reporting?
  • Do they understand the control measures associated with the job and know how to implement them?
  • Do they understand their responsibilities as an employee not to interfere with safety equipment and ensure that they do not put themselves and others in danger?

Creating a risk assessment for young persons

A risk assessment should be carried out for each young person employed at the premises and should relate to the job activities that they will be undertaking.

A general risk assessment for young persons may be used or adapted accordingly, but in all cases the employer must ensure that they cover all of the points above.

More information about employing young persons has been produced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) -

For more information on this or other matters relating to health and safety in the workplace Contact Us.


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