Employing young people in your community interest company is a great way to find energetic, enthusiastic help, but there are rules that specifically apply to people under 18. It’s important to ensure that you follow all the applicable laws. The fines and punishments for violating child labour laws are very strict and stringently enforced.
The history of child labour
From the beginning of time until the middle of the 20th century, child labour was common in Britain. The Factory Acts, passed in the 19th century, prevented children younger than 9 from working. Children aged 9-16 could work 12 hours per day, according to the Cotton Mills Act. In 1901, the permissible age was raised to 12.
Throughout the beginning of the Industrial Revolution until just before World War II, children were employed in some of the most dangerous and taxing jobs, including mining, glassmaking, and construction. Children as young as 4 years old were exploited by the Victorian Era industrialists to work for low wages and long hours. The mortality rate was very high.
Children were and, in much of the underdeveloped world, still are expected to contribute to the family income.
Today, the fight against child labour continues around the world. Here in the UK, the laws are clear and strict to prevent the exploitation of children by business owners.
Rules on working hours for young workers
The rules for child labour are for children up to 18 years of age and afford them extra protection.
Children can work full-time once they reach school leaving age. In England, a young person between school leaving age and 18 must take part in:
- Full-time education or training
- Work-based learning, like an apprenticeship
- Working or volunteering for 20 hours a week or more while in part-time education.
Before school leaving age, local authorities have guidelines that must be followed.
Who is classed as a young worker?
Until the end of the academic year of their 16th birthday, young people are classed as child workers.
Under 18, but over school leaving, they are classed as young workers. Young workers who are employed on ships or are in the armed forces are not subject to the same legal guidelines as others their age.
What hours can young workers work?
The laws for work hours for young people are quite strict. It’s important to understand where your business falls in these laws.
Young people cannot work over eight hours a day. They cannot opt out of this rule like adults can. If employed by two different workers, the total hours per day cannot exceed 8.
Young people under 18 in England must participate in some form of schooling or training.
Night work is not allowed in many jobs between 10pm and 6 am, if their contract does not say, or 11 pm and 7 am, if their contract says. Some sectors, such as the armed forces, hospitals, retail, hotels, and others may employ young people until midnight or after 4 am, only if there is no one else to do the work and as long as those hours don’t negatively affect their education.
Between midnight and 4am, no child under 18 may work.
What are the working rest breaks for young workers?
Young people must get a 30-minute break if they work over 4.5 hours. It should be a single continuous break, if possible.
They must get 12 hours a day of rest and 48 hours of weekly rest.
These rules can be temporarily suspended if there is no one over 18 to do the work while they break or if the work is temporary and must be done immediately.
If a young person misses a rest period, they must be given that rest period within three weeks as compensatory rest.
What is the minimum age a child can work?
The youngest a child can work part-time is 13 years of age, except in areas like television, theatre, or modelling. In those cases, the child must have a performance licence.
Full-time work must follow the rules mentioned above, which is usually school leaving age.
Pay for young workers
School-age children (under 16) are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage. They don’t pay National Insurance, so they only need to be on the payroll if their total income is over their Personal Allowance.
Sixteen- and 17-year-olds must be paid at least £4.81 per hour. If they make more than £123 a week, regular PAYE tasks must be followed.
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