Work placement scheme launches to help young people off Universal Credit

Oct 1, 2020 | Business

A new scheme designed to get young people on Universal Credit into the workplace to gain experience has launched.

The government’s Kickstart Scheme is now active is also aimed at those at risk from long-term unemployment,

With many businesses looking to benefit, Alison Schreiber from The HR Dept Durham looks at some of the wider considerations when hiring young people new to the world of work.

Alison begins: “It’s pleasing to see the level of support being offered to businesses and those entering the labour market during this testing time. While some of the detail of the scheme is yet to be confirmed, the support looks to be comprehensive, covering National Minimum Wage for 25 hours per week, national insurance and auto-enrolment pension contributions, as well as set-up costs.

“The rules of the Kickstart scheme are one thing, but it’s important for employers to be aware of otherrules that still stand, relating to employing young people.

“The minimum school-leaving age in England is 16. However, school leavers must, until the age of 18, carry out work-based training like an apprenticeship, or continue their education part time if working or remain in full time education.

“So there is scope to be employing 16- and 17-year-olds, and, if so, the Working Time Regulations state that they cannot work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. They must also have at least a 30-minute break if working for more than 4.5 hours. There are stipulations about rest periods between shifts and on a weekly basis too. There are some restrictions around night working if this is relevant to you, including a total ban on working between midnight and 4am.

“Under health and safety law, employers have a duty of care towards all employees, but there are extra considerations when employing 16- and 17-year-olds. Much of it will seem like common sense but it is enshrined in law. You need to ensure they are not exposed to risk due to their lack of experience, maturity or from simply being unaware of existing or potential risks. You must consider a range of factors such as workplace layout, health and safety training and work equipment among other things.

“Once basic safety is covered, let’s not forget that they may be completely new to the workplace and the etiquette and responsibility that goes with that – even if they are a little older than 18. All new hires need a degree of on-boarding, and it may be best to go a little further with young, inexperienced people.

Having clear policies and communicating them well is a strong first step here. Many businesses will have bespoke on-boarding programmes and mentoring schemes which will help further.

“The Kickstart scheme does reimburse pay at minimum wage for 25 hours a week. If they work more than that you’ll need to cover it at the relevant minimum wage rate or higher.”