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Child Employment

Can I employ and under 16 year old?

Q:  My son is a fairly mature 15 year old who I think is more than capable of working in my pub restaurant; after all, he’s been living on the premises with me for the last 12 months so is used to the environment. With Easter holidays only a few weeks away, I thought of giving him and his friend a job. I’ve asked his friend’s mother who is happy with the idea but she thinks that all they’ll be able to do is wait tables as you need to be 18 to work behind the bar. Though I think she is wrong, I’d like this confirming as I don’t want to break any laws.

A:  The good news is that your friend is indeed wrong; you are well within your legal rights to employ under 18s to work in your pub restaurant. Your son and his friend can do things like collect glasses, clear tables and take food / drink orders from customers at the tables they are waiting on. 

What’s more, under 18s can also work behind the bar and serve alcohol to your customers. But there is a practical problem you face with this – one that often stops licensees employing under 18s to serve behind the bar – which is that every single sale needs approving by a responsible person. 

And by responsible person, I mean either your Premises Licence holder, Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS) or anyone aged 18 or over who has been authorised by the Premises Licence Holder or the DPS. 

Obviously I do not know the type of operation you run nor any practical details. For instance how busy your bar gets or its physical layout, so only you know if approving every sale is practical or not. 

A lesser known problem you might face is that sometimes children are not permitted to work without an employment permit issued by the local council. So make sure you check with them first. 

There are also specific laws for employing under 16s that cover items such as times of work, breaks and school holidays that you need to be aware of. A good place to help you with these laws is here: https://www.gov.uk/child-employment.  So to answer your initial question, yes your son and his friend can work in your pub restaurant at the age of 15 as long as there are no by-laws or licence conditions stopping them. But consider their duties and the practicalities of having to have each and every sale of alcohol they make behind your bar approved.

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