Head: Weekly dilemma…student health & safety

I am the HR manager at a large warehousing and distribution company. Over the summer we will be employing quite a number of youngsters who’ve just left school and who are doing temporary work. We also have young people of school age doing work experience. What are our legal obligations as regards health and safety, working hours etc?

Strict rules govern the employment of school-age young people. Working hours are strictly controlled and they must have a permit issued by the local authority, normally the education welfare service. Under the Children and Young Persons Act no child under 13 may be employed and those aged between 13 and the minimum school-leaving age may not do any work, paid or unpaid:

  • before 7am or after 7pm
  • for more than two hours on a school day or Sunday
  • before the close of school hours (however, Local Authority bylaws may allow young people to work for one hour before school)
  • for more than 12 hours a week during term time
  • for more than five hours (13 to 14 year olds) or eight hours (15 to 16 year olds) on Saturdays and during school holidays on weekdays
  • for more than 25 hours in total a week – 35 hours if aged 15 or over – during school holidays
  • for more than four hours without taking a break of at least one hour
  • in any occupations that may be harmful to their health, well-being or education.

Also, they must have a two-week break from any work during the school holiday.

There are slightly less stringent restrictions on workers aged 16 and 17. They must not work for more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. These hours worked cannot be averaged out and there is no opt-out available. If you employ anybody in this age group you must also give them:

  • a break of 30 minutes every four-and-a-half hours worked
  • a rest period of 12 hours between each working day
  • two days off a week.

It is important to carry out a risk assessment, paying attention to the health and safety implications of employing young people. Consider their immaturity as well as their inexperience when you do this. Any dangerous activities should be avoided and arrangements should be made for adequate supervision.

Michael Ball, employment partner at Halliwells

Comments are closed.