RETAIL | 6 things you should know when employing young workers

After leaving full-time education, retail work is many young people’s first step into employment.

With the right support, these young people may become your future area managers, national sales managers, product designers, or even CEO.

Retailers need to be aware, however, that special employment rules apply when employing young workers – those above the compulsory school age but still under the age of 18.

Here are 6 key things you need to know:

Please note that different rules apply for those under the compulsory school age.

1. Restrictions on work due to education and training

By law, young people in England must remain in some form of education or training until the age of 18.

This means that if you’re employing workers within your stores who are under the age of 18, you are only permitted to do so on a part-time basis around their education or training.

Once they reach the age of 18, adult employment law rules apply, meaning you can employ them on a full-time basis up to a maximum of 48 hours per week.

2. Type of work

Young workers are not permitted to undertake:

  • Work which they are not physically or mentally capable of doing;
  • Work which brings them into contact with chemical agents, toxic material or radiation; or
  • Work which involves a health risk because of extreme cold, heat or vibration.

Work that falls within these categories is only permissible when necessary for the worker’s training, if there is an experienced individual supervising the work and if the risk is diminished to the lowest reasonable level.

3. Pay

Currently, the National Minimum Wage rate for young workers is £4.20. Once they reach the age of 18, this increases to £5.90 until they are 21. Remember, this changes every year, so it is important to ensure you are paying the correct amount.

An employee’s age also determines how you are required to pay them. Once an employee reaches 16, you may need to pay them through PAYE. Adult employment rights and rules then apply once the employee turns 18.

4. Working time and rest breaks

Young workers are not normally permitted to work more than eight hours a day and 40 hours per week.

 They must have 12 hours of rest between each working day and be given a rest break of 30 minutes if they work for longer than four and a half hours.

They are also entitled to two consecutive days off per week (this cannot be averaged over a two-week period).

young worker

5. Night work

In general, young people aged 16 and 17 are not permitted to work before 6am in the morning or after 10pm at night.

This rule doesn’t apply in certain environments. These include retail, hospitals, hotels, pubs, restaurants and bakeries.  

However, even in these sectors, young people are not permitted to work between midnight and 4am, other than in very exceptional circumstances.

6. Health and safety

Studies show that young workers are at higher risk of injury. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, each year about 100,000 16 to 24-year-olds miss work after being hurt on the job, so employers should take extra care to ensure their safety.

Employers must carry out a risk assessment before recruiting employees under the age of 18, taking into account the worker’s age, their lack of experience and maturity, the training required and what work equipment they can use.

If you need support, our qualified Health & Safety Consultants can carry out general risk assessments for you to keep you compliant. We provide expert, solution-focused advice specifically tailored to retailers to make sure your business is protected.

Other factors to consider

As well as the legalities associated with employing young workers, young people present a different kind of challenge for employers when it comes to recruitment and retention.

You should think about

When trying to reach this generation of job seekers, you should keep in mind that young people often turn to social media first when job hunting. As such, you may have more success with a targeted ad on Facebook or Instagram, or encouraging users to share your tweet on Twitter, than you would with a traditional job advert.

However, don’t forget that parents often have a hand in steering young people into work, so combining social media advertising with ads in relevant industry publications, the national and local press or on online job boards may strengthen your approach.

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If your business is to benefit from the enthusiasm of young workers, you will need to retain them long enough for them to add value. With a higher-than-average staff turnover (as a result of students moving on, low pay and limited career progression), retailers are up against it.

The first step in this is to ensure they are sufficiently supported. As a generation who have grown up around technology, certain elements of the job may come quickly, but it is important to remember that this may be a young person’s first role, so a mentor or buddy may be required to get them up to speed.

You should also recognise the value of a thorough workplace induction, which can be instrumental in making recruits feel part of the organisation and welcome by all. This should provide an overview of their role, team or department and can be used as an opportunity to promote your values and goals.

Importantly, with reports suggesting that retail is the worst industry in the UK for pay and progression, clear development prospects will be crucial to retaining young employees. A structured development plan as to where they fit within the company and where they are headed can motivate young workers and keep them with you for longer. 

For more information on how to retain employees, read our 7 top tips.

Need support?

Ellis Whittam’s Employment Law, HR and Health & Safety Advisers understand the challenges retailers are up against and are proud to be partnered with the British Independent Retailers Association. Our dedicated experts support retail organisations across the UK with everything from handbooks to grievances, and our award-winning Compliance Centre allows for multi-site coverage.

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