Discrimination against young workers

It’s a sad situation when employers don’t want to take on anyone under 18 years old, because they have to do a person specific risk assessment. This is a legal requirement and that risk assessment also has to be made available to the parents of the young person concerned. Many employers are worried that this will be complicated and difficult; a task to be avoided.

There is an assumption on the part of many employers that young people coming straight from school or colleges are a ‘blank canvas’, in other words can be trained to the organisation’s way of operating without any negative influences from previous employers.

That’s not true – young people have been in a mollycoddled environment protected from injury by their school or college. They haven’t had to think about their safety it’s been done for them – and the expectation that this will continue may make them oblivious of potential risks.

Alternatively, youngsters may have a cavalier approach to injury; often to the point that they can see that sometimes an injury is a way to compensation. Most people under 25 seem to think they’re immortal and that it won’t happen to them!

However, a person specific risk assessment can be done simply. The employer has to make the decision as to exactly how they are going to provide the appropriate level of information, instruction, training and supervision.

If the young person is given information (and it’s checked that they’ve understood), instructed on processes, systems and procedures adequately, trained on how to carry out the tasks assigned to them and on other relevant issues that affect them within their workng environment, and supervised well – they’ll become a competent and valuable member of staff.

The key is supervision for young people, because they are not competent and need to be guided and supported until they are. The employer has both a moral and a legal duty to make the person competent. This is the contract that the employer enters into when they exchange that young person’s time for money.