Employing younger workers

There are rules governing the employment of young people with which employers must legally comply.

Employees aged 16 to 17

Employees who are above the minimum school-leaving age but who are younger than 18 must be paid the hourly rate set for that age group under the National Minimum Wage.

The current apprentice minimum wage is £3.30 per hour. The new rate applies to those apprentices who are under 19 or those that are aged 19 and over but in the first year of their apprenticeship

Any employee aged 16 or 17 must not work longer than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. They must be given a half-hour break for every four-and-a-half hours worked. Additionally, they must have a rest period of 12 hours between each working day and must have two days off work each week.

Employees in this age range who have not reached a certain educational standard or level may be entitled to paid time off work so that they can continue with their study or training. Employers in such cases may be able to claim funding to help offset the cost. Young workers who ask for time off work for training and who believe they have been discriminated against for doing so, or have been turned down when they are entitled to training, are allowed to take their case to an employment tribunal.

Any employer who offers a job to a young employee must first conduct an assessment of the workplace for any health and safety issues that may arise as a result both of the employee's immaturity and inexperience.

Employees aged 18 and over

There are also rules that apply to young workers who are aged 18 and over.

Employees aged 18 to 21 must be paid the hourly rate set for that age group under the National Minimum Wage. The same hourly rate applies to employees aged 22 or over who are undergoing accredited training for the first six months with a new employer.

As from 1 October 2011, those aged 21 and over qualify for the adult hourly rate of the National Minimum Wage.

Workers aged 18 or over are entitled to 5.6 weeks paid holiday annually, must work no more than six days out of seven and work a maximum of a 48-hour average week.

Employees who are aged 18, and who did not reach a certain educational standard or level while they were 16 or 17, may be given paid time off work in order to finish their study or training.

Employees who are aged between 18 and 24, and who had been claiming the Jobseeker's Allowance for six months or longer, could qualify for the New Deal. If they do qualify, they may be entitled to one day a week off work, in addition to the two days that are their right, for a period lasting up to six months in order to study. Employers may be eligible for funding to help cover the cost of this.


There is a government scheme, called the Graduate Talent Pool, which helps match graduates with business internships.