Following our look at the employment law lesson to be learned from Excitable Edgar in the John Lewis Christmas advert, our thoughts have turned other Christmas ads. Another, but quite different store, has produced a Christmas advert which has gone viral for its simple festive family message: Hafod Hardware in the Welsh town of Rhayader.

In the Hafod Hardware advert we see a two year old boy wake up and get ready for the day by doing his teeth and having breakfast.  He makes his to Hafod Hardware where he works diligently in the store, including by serving customers. At the end of the film, the boy turns into his father and the overall effect is both festive and warm, despite it costing only £100 to make.  If you haven’t seen it yet, it can be viewed in the article linked below.

So, what employment law lesson can we take from Hafod Hardware’s advert? Employers thinking of employing or offering work experience to children or young persons should be mindful of the laws and restrictions in place.

The employment of children and young persons is one of the most regulated aspects of employment law, with the protection of health, safety and welfare being the aim. A “child” is any person who is not over compulsory school age and a “young person” is someone over compulsory school age but under 18.  The Children and Young Persons Act is clear that assisting in a trade or occupation carried on for profit is considered to be employment even if they don’t receive payment – this will include a child helping in their family shop. 

Some of the main restrictions relating to the employment of children and young people include:

  • Children under 14 cannot be employed (although this may be relaxed under local byelaws for work such as a paper round or stacking shelves – employers should check with local authorities).
  • Children should only be employed for “light” work that is unlikely to be harmful to their health, safety or development or to impact upon school attendance.
  • Children are not entitled to the national minimum wage (NMW) but Young Persons are entitled to receive the NMW at a "young workers' rate", currently £4.35.
  • There are numerous restrictions on permitted hours of work, including no work before school on a school day and no work before 7am or after 7pm, with an overall limit of 2 hours’ work on a school day or Sunday, 5 hours on a non-school day (8 hours for those aged over 15) and 12 hours in any school term week.
  • In school holidays, those under 15 should not be working more than 25 hours per week.  The limit for over 15’s is 35 hours.
  • There is no statutory right to paid annual leave but children must be given a two week break each year.
  • They must have a one hour rest break after working 4 hours.
  • Employers should ensure that the child has been:
  • adequately trained and supervised for the job they are required to do;
  • made aware of any of the risks that are involved in the job; and
  • provided with any necessary safety equipment and clothing.
  • If the employment involves the child in a performance, special permits and licences will need to be obtained.

Employers should:

  • Note the age limits and restrictions set out above and be cognisant that there are other limits which they will need to check. 
  • Check their local authority byelaws to ensure that the work proposed is agreed by the licensing authority.
  • Carry out a risk assessment and check any other health and safety requirements.
  • Ensure that its Employer’s Liability Insurance covers the employment of children.
  • Be aware of the rules on safeguarding children set out in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, including conducting appropriate DBS checks.