Thinking about employing students this summer? Here are some considerations for employers

The summer season is well underway, a time when most of the businesses in the hospitality and retail sectors will take on additional employees. Typically, roles like bar and waiting staff and shop workers are often taken up by young teenage students who are off school and looking to make some extra money. So what do employers need to consider before hiring young people this summer?

Minimum Age

Firstly, anyone under the age of 14 cannot be employed at all and any child under the age of 16 cannot be employed in a full-time position. Those aged 14 and 15 can be employed under certain circumstances:

  • Carrying out light work during holidays provided there is a three-week break from work during the summer

  • The work is part of an approved educational programme

  • Working in specific sectors – film, advertising, sports – once it does not interfere with school

There are also restrictions on the number of hours young people can work: For those aged 14 and 15, they are allowed to work 35 hours each week during holidays (14 y/o cannot work during term time). And, anyone under the age of 16 is not permitted to start work before 8am or work beyond 8pm.

For those aged 16 and 17, their maximum working day is 8 hours, working a maximum of 40 hours each week. This group is not permitted to start work before 6.00am and must finish work at 10.00pm on days preceding a school day. They may work up to 11.00pm on days where they have no school the next day.

Minimum wage

The Irish minimum wage increased on 1st January this year to €10.50 per hour but this doesn’t apply to employees under 18. Anyone under that age is only entitled to 70% of this figure, which is €7.35 per hour. Obviously, if an employer wants to pay more than this, they can but they’re not required to do so.

When it comes to jobs where ‘Tips’ are given by customers, there is currently no legal obligation on the employer to pay these out to employees. However, the Payment of Wages (Amendment) (Tips and Gratuities) Bill, which was published at the start of the year, will give legal rights in relation to tips once enacted.

Employer responsibilities

Employers must keep a record of the following employee information for three years:

  • Employee name

  • Date of birth

  • Daily Start time and End time

  • Rate of wages or salary paid per day, week, month or year as appropriate

  • Total amount of wages/salary paid to each child or young person

Employers must also put up a poster issued by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) outlining the rights of a child/ young person in an area that is frequently used by staff.

Employers should request to see a copy of the young person’s birth certificate and ask for written permission from a parent or guardian.

Details of the terms of employment must also be given to the employee within one month of starting along with a copy of the official summary of the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act. Any employer found guilty of an offence under this Act can be fined up to €1,904.61 and an extra €317.43 a day for a continuing offence.

Tips & Gratuities – upcoming legislation to be aware of

There is currently no obligation on employers to share or pass on any tips or gratuities received from customers for employees. In 2019, there was a widely reported story in the media relating to how a high-end restaurant in Dublin managed tips received for staff. This particular issue ended up in the Labour Court where two waitresses were found to be unfairly dismissed because of their trade union activities. The restaurant was ordered to pay €10,000 in compensation to the two.

However, the Government is moving to address how employers should manage tips with its Pay of Wages (Amendment) (Tips and Gratuities) Bill 2021. The Bill prohibits the employer from using tips as a way of making up contractual rates of pay.

Employers will be obliged to display their policy on how they distribute tips and will be required to keep a record of how this is done.

It is expected that the Bill will be enacted next year. However, it is prudent for employers to ensure they clearly communicate with all staff how tips are distributed in a fair and transparent manner.