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Acas launches new advice for employers to help prevent young workers from feeling exploited

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Workplace experts, Acas, have launched new free guidance on UN International Youth Day to help businesses know the special rules that apply when employing young workers.

Latest research by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, revealed a growing demand from businesses with recruitment difficulties who said they plan to take on more young people to fill skills gaps. A third specifically want to hire apprentices.

Thousands of teenagers will be receiving both A Level and GCSE results in the next week or so and employers across the country will soon face an influx of CVs and job applications for work. But many employers may not realise that there are special legal provisions that apply to employing young people.

Stewart Gee, Acas Head of Information and Guidance, said:

"Many young people in their first jobs will not be aware of their workplace rights and they may feel like they are being exploited at work if they are treated very differently to older work colleagues.

"Our own research reveals that workers under 18 are particularly vulnerable as they are within the age group that are most likely to face problems at work.

"Our new guidance will help employers get to grips with the rules around employing younger workers and the special protections that apply to them."

Acas' new free online guide outlines the additional special protections that are set out in the Working Time Regulations to protect apprentices and workers under the age of 18. It will help businesses avoid a range of common pitfalls including not getting paid enough and working hours that are too long.

The main points that employers should be aware of when employing younger workers, include:

  • Giving them the correct amount of time off each week: younger workers are entitled to two days off per week, which is double the amount for older workers (over 18 years of age) in the Working Time Regulations
  • Paying them properly because money talks: most workers over school leaving age (16-17) will be entitled to receive the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage. Acas has an online tool available to check if you are unsure about what you should be paying: Helpline Online.
  • Ensuring they work the right hours: younger workers will not normally work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. You can find more information at Working hours.
  • Following the rules on work-based training: as young people must stay in education or training at least part-time, until they are 18 years old, it's important to be aware that work-based training such as apprenticeships needs to be more than 20 hours a week. You can find more information specifically on hiring apprentices at Apprentices.
  • Think first, does your business involve night work: under 18's are not usually allowed to work at night but exceptions can apply in some circumstances. For example, if they are employed in a hospital or similar places of work, or in areas such as advertising, sporting or cultural activities. Young workers may work between 10pm or 11pm to midnight and between 4am to 6 /7am if they are employed in particular industries or they may work when the work is necessary to maintain continuity of service or production or respond to demand for services or products.

Katerina Rudiger, Head of Volunteering and Employability Campaigns at the CIPD, said:

"As increasing numbers of employers consider employing young people, it's more important than ever that they understand the right approaches to attracting and managing younger workers.

"Our research finds that larger employers are offering more entry level opportunities compared to last year, including apprenticeships, graduate schemes and school leaver programmes.

"But we also discovered that SMEs are lagging behind, so it's essential that they are properly equipped to recruit, engage and ultimately retain young workers going forward.

"Acas' new guide, which contains materials to help organisations of all sizes, including SMEs, understand their responsibilities when recruiting and managing young people therefore couldn't be timelier."  

The full Acas guidance for businesses, employers and managers is available at www.acas.org.uk/employingyoungpeople. Acas also has guidance available for anyone going into their first job that has top tips on how to prepare for their first day and also useful advice on getting treated fairly. This is available on the Acas website at: www.acas.org.uk/firstjob.

Notes to editors

  1. Acas A-Z guidance went live on UN International Youth Day 12 August 2015 and is available at: www.acas.org.uk/employingyoungpeople. It outlines the special protections as set out in the Working Time Regulations for younger workers. Younger workers refer to those under 18 years of age.  
  2. The CIPD's latest Labour Market Outlook Survey is available to download here
  3. Case studies of Acas' staff experience on their first job is available at: www.acas.org.uk/firstjob. For interview requests or media enquiries, please contact Acas press office, Sophia Said on 0207 210 3680. For out of hours media enquiries please call the out of hours duty press officer on 020 7210 3600.
  4. Acas Research found that young workers (aged 16-24) are more likely to face problems at work and are less likely to take actions to resolve their workplace problems: Oxenbridge, S. and Neathey, F. (2012) Young people's awareness and use of sources of advice and information on problems and rights at work, Acas Research Paper 19/12
  5. Acas stands for Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. We aim to improve organisations and working life through better workplace relations. We help with workplace relations by supplying up-to-date information, independent advice and high quality training, and working with employers and employees to solve problems and improve performance. Acas is an independent and impartial statutory body governed by a Council made up of members from business, trade unions, academia and the law.
  6. Acas Helpline Online is a free web service available to employers and employees to help them with common work related questions. More information is available at: www.acas.org.uk/helplineonline
  7. The CIPD is the professional body for HR and people development. The not for profit organisation champions better work and working lives and has been setting the benchmark for excellence in people and organisation development for more than 100 years. It has more than 135,000 members across the world, provides thought leadership through independent research on the world of work, and offers professional training and accreditation for those working in HR and learning and development. www.cipd.co.uk