Young People at Work - FAQs

Young people

Does an employer have to carry out a separate risk assessment for a young person?

While there is no requirement for an employer to carry out a separate risk assessment specifically for a young person, if they haven't previously employed a young person they should review their risk assessment and take into account the specific factors for young people, before a young person starts with them.

What if a young person doesn't feel confident about raising a health and safety concern with their employer?

Many workplaces should have an appointed safety representative. This will be an employee who should be able to provide advice and information about health and safety matters. This might include identifying any health and safety problems and/or developing suitable solutions.

Does an employer need to have Employers' Liability Compulsory Insurance (ELCI) in place before they employ a young person?

Most employers are required by law to insure against liability for injury or disease to their employees. Those who are currently exempt include:

  • family businesses, where all employees are closely related to the employer, unless the business is incorporated as a limited company
  • sole traders

However, if a family business takes on an employee who is not closely related to the employer, or if a sole trader takes on an employee, then there is a requirement for them to have ELCI.

How does an employer avoid putting a young person at risk due to their physical limitations?

Young people may be more at risk as their muscle strength may not be fully developed and they may be less skilled in handling techniques or in pacing the work according to their ability. When assessing a young person's physical capability, it could be as simple as asking yourself the question 'can a still developing young person be expected to lift the weights my older, more experienced employees can?'

How do I assess a young person's psychological capability?

This doesn't have to be a complicated process. It could be as straightforward as making sure a young person understands what is expected of them, checking they understand and are able to remember and follow instructions. It is important that young people are given the necessary training and supervision.

What constitutes harmful exposure?

Harmful exposure means exposure that has long-term health effects on a still-developing young body. An employer should be aware of the substances a young person might come into contact with in their business and will need to consider exposure levels and ensure legal limits are met.

Can a young person be employed to work with ionising radiation?

There is no regulatory requirement that prevents young people, including those below the age of 16, from working with ionising radiation as long as their exposure is restricted so far as reasonably practicable and does not exceed the dose limit of 1 mSv in any calendar year.

How do I take account of a young person's lack of maturity, lack of risk awareness, insufficient attention to safety and their lack of experience or training?

For many young people the workplace will be a new environment and they will be unfamiliar with 'obvious' risks and the behaviour expected of them in response.

Young people might need additional support to allow them to carry out their work without putting themselves and others at risk, and this might mean more tailored training and/or closer supervision.  Regularly checking a young person's progress will help identify where any additional adjustments may be needed.  This is also why it's often appropriate to put age limits on the use of some equipment and machinery, as is the case for  forklift trucks and some woodworking machinery.

Are young people at more risk of exposure to extreme temperature, noise or vibration?

Exposure to extremes of any of these hazards carry risks for workers of all ages and could lead to health issues.

To avoid risks to young people from all these factors, employers need to comply with relevant legislation and consider a risk control programme which might include:

  • limiting time/level of exposure
  • providing information training and supervision
  • provision of protective equipment
  • health surveillance

For workplaces that include these hazards an employer should already have the necessary control measures in place.

Further information can be found on the HSE website for temperature, noise and vibration.

I understand there has been a change to the official statutory school leaving age, rising to age 17 in 2013, with a further rise to 18 from 2015. Is this correct and does this mean that the definition of a child has changed?

No changes are being made to the statutory school leaving age. The change is to the participation age. Young people are now required to participate in some form of education or training (which could be full-time education, an apprenticeship or full-time employment with training alongside) for longer.

Pupils who left year 11 in summer 2013 need to continue in education or training for at least a further year until 27 June 2014 and pupils starting year 11 or below in September 2013 will need to continue until at least their 18th birthday. This will not impact on health and safety legislation and guidance and the definition of a child remains unchanged.

The Department for Education provides information on school leaving age and the latest information on participation age.

Work experience

My child is due to go on a work experience placement during this school year. As a parent, what responsibilities do I have?

While parents and carers have no responsibilities under health and safety law, you may want, nevertheless, to ensure work experience organiser (usually the school or college) knows about any  medical or behavioural conditions, which might affect your child whilst on placement.  They can then bring this  to the attention of the placement provider (employer.)

What does a school have to do when sending a student on a work experience placement, and do they have to use a third party to carry out the necessary checks?

When a school or college organises a work placement for a student they need to take reasonable steps to satisfy themselves that any work-related risks to the student are managed by the employer.  There is no requirement for a school to use a third party to do this, it can be done in a number of ways, informed by past experience and the degree of risk.  Talk to the employer about their health and safety arrangements for young people, discuss what a student will be doing and what control measures will be in place.  In a low risk environment simple checks are all that is needed.  For higher risk environments more robust checks are necessary.

Schools should pass on relevant information about the student to the employer and advise on the suitability of a student for a particular placement.

Where there is a third party organising the placements, they should work together with the school/college, ensuring there is no duplication in arrangements or processes.

My company is contracted to organise work experience placements for school children, do we have to assess the risks in each workplace?

As the work experience organiser, your company needs to take reasonable steps to satisfy itself that any work-related risks to a student are managed by the employer. Reasonable checks should be kept in proportion to the risks involved without second-guessing the employer's assessments and procedures. It is the employer who is responsible for workplace health and safety and discussion with them will help you identify workplaces or tasks that would not be suitable for certain students.

It is important that work experience organisers do not introduce unnecessary additional paperwork that could lead to employers being discouraged from offering placements. It is likely to be far more informative to talk with the employer about what work the student will do, what the relevant precautions are, and the planned arrangements for the induction, training and supervision of the student.

Does an employer need to carry out a risk assessment specifically for a student on a work experience placement?

No, a separate risk assessment, specifically for work experience students, is not necessary as long as your existing assessment already considers the specific factors for young people. Furthermore, there is no requirement to re-assess the risks each time an employer takes on a new work experience student, provided the new student has no particular needs.

Do I have to obtain additional employers' liability insurance to cover a work experience student for the short time of their placement?

Employers' liability insurance policies already cover work placements provided your insurer is a member of ABI, or Lloyds, so there is no need for an employer to obtain any additional employers' liability insurance if they take on work experience students.

For many insurers, a definition of who is to be treated as an 'employee' would include: any person employed under a contract of service or apprenticeship and people on work experience schemes, for example, students. If in doubt you should check with your insurer.

Where an employer doesn't currently require employers' liability insurance and they are going to take on a work placement, they should discuss the situation with their insurers to ensure they have adequate insurance cover.

How does a school or work experience organiser ensure an employer has employers' liability insurance in place?

The work experience organiser, whether that be a school/college or a third party, should ask the employer if they have employers' liability insurance and whether it covers work experience students as employees. There is no need for the school to visit the employer to confirm this, they should simply ask the employer to let them have a copy of the insurance certificate and make sure it covers the period of the work experience placement.

If a work experience student becomes, just for the short period of the placement, my fifth member of staff will I have to write down my risk assessment?

This will not apply to many employers but assessments only need to be reviewed if there has been a significant change. A temporary increase from four to five is not in itself such a change. If the existing assessment does not provide for a young person, the employer should consider any specific arrangements required for the student, following this guidance, and keep a record of these.

In low-risk environments such as offices or shops, this need not cover everyday risks familiar to the student. For environments with risks less familiar to the student, and for placements in higher-risk environments such as construction, agriculture and manufacturing, it should cover areas set out on the law pages of this guidance.

If there was an accident, an employer would need to show evidence of reasonable measures taken to control the risks, eg that the student had been advised of potential risks and control measures, or that appropriate levels of supervision and training had been provided where necessary. This is first and foremost about the controls themselves, not about paperwork.

If there is an accident involving a young person who is on placement with an employer, who's responsibility is it to report the incident?

If pupils are on a training scheme or work placement, they are deemed to be employees for the period of the placement. In these circumstances, the employer as the responsible person should report a death, injury or disease to a pupil which arises out of or in connection with work.

Updated 2021-12-17