Poll: Would you employ under 18s in your pub?

By Rebecca Weller contact

- Last updated on GMT

Young people in hospitality: In 2019 of the 1.762bn people employed in the sector, 620,000 were aged 16 to 24
Young people in hospitality: In 2019 of the 1.762bn people employed in the sector, 620,000 were aged 16 to 24

Related tags: Employment, Training, Licensing, Social responsibility

More than a third (39%) of hospitality and leisure SMEs are expected to hire more staff this year, recent data from Barclaycard’s SME Barometer showed.

Furthermore, in 2019 of the 1.762bn people employed in the sector, 620,000 were young people aged 16 to 24, and in the three months to October 2021 the sector recorded 1.17m empty roles, the second highest number of vacancies recorded.

A spokesperson for the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) said: “With staff shortages across the board, licensees have had to diversify and attract staff from many different areas and employing young people has been key to overcoming these challenges.”

The Morning Advertiser​ has looked into how hiring under 18s could help publicans reduce the number of vacant jobs in the industry, as well as the opportunity for young people to get their foot on the employment ladder.


Would you employ under 18s in your pub?

  • Yes

  • No

  • Potentially


Great benefits 

Dave Davies, licensee of the Drunken Dragon pub in Bicknacre, Essex, said: “We have employed under-18s in the restaurant side of our pub ever since we opened.

“The biggest issue we've found is many of them leave once they get a car and realise their friends are all having a social life elsewhere, there's a real staffing crisis within the sector right now and it's hard to find reliable people to fill roles.”

While the employment of staff members aged under 18 could pose some challenges for publicans, it could still be beneficial for all involved as publicans gain potentially long-standing employees, and young staff members get the opportunity to learn pub etiquette ahead of their peers as well as good career opportunities.

Heath Ball, licensee of the Red Lion & Sun, Highgate, north London, said: “We've had some great experiences in employing under-18s, several of whom have gone on to forge careers with us and one who is now a manager of a £1m-plus turnover site and working towards a management degree.

“As an employer in the hospitality industry, there are two great benefits: we get to demonstrate what a great industry this is and at the same time, the youngsters equally see how demanding the public can be.

“From the employees’ point of view, they get to understand the industry, learn about food and the great range of wines and beers available, this really equips them for a more fulfilling social life and teaches them how to eat and drink out properly.”

According to licensing solicitor Poppleston Allen, the main things to consider when employing minors are the legal responsibility of publicans to ensure children are not at risk and to check with local authorities for any by-laws, including whether a child needs a work permit.

The Licensing Act 2003 states while they are not allowed to physically dispense alcohol or put a drink order together behind the bar unless supervised by an adult, under-18s can take orders and deliver alcoholic drinks for consumption with a meal, unless the local authorities by-laws state otherwise, but each individual sale of alcohol would need to be approved by a staff member aged over 18 as well as any age verifications.

Things to consider 

Hours of work for under-18s also have restrictions, dependant on age and whether it’s term time or school holidays.

The law states a child worker is considered to be aged between 13 and 16 (if still at school) and they cannot work without a two week break from any work during the school holidays in each calendar year, cannot work for more than four hours without at least one hours break and cannot work before 7am or after 7pm.

Term Time Rules for Children

Can work a maximum of 12 hours per week but no more than an hour before school, two hours on school days and Sundays, five on Saturdays for 13 to 14-year-olds and eight for 15 to 16-year-olds.

School Holiday Rules for Children

13 to 14-year-olds can work a maximum of 25 hours per week with no more than five hours worked on weekdays and two hours on Sundays, whereas 15 to 16-year-olds can work a maximum of 35 hours per week, with no more than eight on weekdays and two on Sundays.

A young worker is considered aged between 16 and 17 and has fewer working restrictions. 

Hours of Work for Young Workers

Young workers can work a maximum of eight hours per day and 40 hours per week with at least two consecutive days off per week, if a shift were to last longer than 4.5 hours they would need to have at least one 30-minute break. Shifts for young workers must also be at least 12 hours apart and they cannot work between the hours of 12am and 4am or between 10pm and 6am, unless to respond to a surge in demand where no adult is available, or between the hours of 11pm and 7am, unless agreed in their contract.

Young workers are eligible for the national living wage (or the apprenticeship rate), must receive a payslip and be on the payroll whereas a child under 16 is not, subject to local by-laws.

It appears clear the employment of young people in pubs could give the sector a much-needed boost, however, it is something to be done with a lot of forethought and consideration.

Related topics: Training

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