What the law says about young people at work

Under health and safety law, every employer must ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all their employees, irrespective of age. As part of this, there are certain considerations that need to be made for young people.

This section outlines the requirements in the law. Putting the requirements into practice should be straightforward and in most cases an employer should already have the necessary risk management arrangements in place.

Following the guidance means those involved in employing young people for work or work experience will be doing what the law requires.

Definitions of young people and children by age:

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations

The FAQ page provides further advice on making the necessary considerations contained within these Regulations.

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, an employer has a responsibility to ensure that young people employed by them are not exposed to risk due to:

An employer must consider:

These considerations should be straightforward in a low-risk workplace, for example an office.

In higher- risk workplaces the risks are likely to be greater and will need more attention to ensure they're properly controlled.

Employers need to consider whether the work the young person will do:

A child must never carry out such work involving these risks, whether they are permanently employed or under training such as work experience.

A young person, who is not a child, can carry out work involving these risks if:

Providing supervision for young workers and monitoring their progress will help employers identify where additional adjustments may be needed.

Employers must let the parents or guardians of any child know the possible risks and the measures put in place to control them. This can be done in whatever way is simplest and suitable, including verbally.

An employer will already be familiar with the risks associated with their workplace and should be in a position to consider what is or is not appropriate.

Employers with fewer than five employees are not required to have a written risk assessment.

Other issues you need to consider

There are other agents, processes and work that should be taken into account when employing a young person. This is a non-exhaustive list and, if relevant, more information can be found through the links provided:

Working hours and young workers

Working hours are not governed by health and safety law.

Young people and children have different employment rights from adult workers and are subject to protections in relation to the hours they can work.

More information can be found on the gov.uk website.

Other regulations

Children below the minimum school leaving age (MSLA) must not be employed in industrial workplaces such as factories, construction sites etc, except when on work experience.

Children under 13 are generally prohibited from any form of employment. Local authorities have powers to make bye-laws on the types of work, and hours of work, children aged between 13 and the MSLA can do.

What does so far as reasonably practicable mean?

This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble.  However, you do not need to take action if it would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk.

Updated 2022-07-01