Licensing Hub – Legal with Poppleston Allen

Giving employment to under-18s

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Work rules: the current situation could offer youngsters a chance to join the on-trade
Work rules: the current situation could offer youngsters a chance to join the on-trade

Related tags: Staff, Public house

Over recent years, the trade has stepped up a gear to entice school leavers into its workforce. Competition is hot but just how compatible is the current legislation in terms of being able to compete?

As we approach our final exit (not mentioning the ‘B’ word) and being told that it’s generally safer for Generation Z to be outdoors then maybe it’s time for the government and local authorities to review legislation and local bylaws.

Age restrictions

Subject to local by-laws, children aged 14 and above can do ‘light work’ that is not harmful to their safety, health and development nor to attendance at school or participation in work experience. 

Generally, due to licensing restrictions children under 16 tend to work in kitchens, not front of house.

The Licensing Act 2003 does not allow a person under 18 to sell alcohol unless it is specifically approved by an adult. That might be easy in a supermarket where not every transaction involves the sale of alcohol but in a bar it is more difficult.

The act does allow under-18s to work in premises (or a part of the premises) set aside and reserved for diners and to take orders and deliver alcoholic drinks for consumption with a meal. It would be sensible to check with authority for any bylaws relating to age restrictions on this. The child would need to carry out age verification checks. The law does not prohibit them from dispensing drinks or putting drinks together at a separate dispense bar in the restaurant/dining area however, again from a risk management point of view you will want to ensure sufficient training and supervision.

Hours of work 

14 to 16 years (child)

There are restrictions on the hours and days that can be worked depending upon whether it’s term time or holidays.

If a person is 15 but has just finished school and has a birthday by 31 August then you have to treat them as a child ‘still at school’ until their birthday.

16 to 17 years (young worker)​ 

A person who has left school and is under 18 must now either stay in full-time education or start an apprenticeship or can do part-time education or apprenticeship and work at the same time.

Things to consider

  • You are legally responsible in ensuring the child is not exposed to a risk due to their lack of experience, maturity or absence of awareness of the risk
  • You must check with local authority for by-laws, including whether the child needs a work permit
  • A young worker is eligible for the national living wage (or the apprenticeship rate) and must receive a payslip and be on the payroll while someone under 16 is not, subject to by-laws

Can authorities help?

Government could consider changing the law to allow young workers to sell alcohol without each sale specifically approved if they have received full training and are working on a shift with an adult.

The law currently allows under-18s to carry out the age verification checks when taking orders with food in a restaurant/dining area, and to deliver alcoholic drinks. Surely 16 to 17-year-olds, subject to training and a sensible risk assessment, can be trusted to carry out the same checks at the bar?

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Related topics: UnitedWeStand, Licensing law

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