As the hospitality sector enters its busiest time of the year, businesses up and down the UK look to fill the recruitment gap and are on the search for talent to join their team.
Recruiting and retaining talent in this sector has been a challenge for decades and in the Summer of 2022, it hit a crisis point, with 180, 000 vacancies in the UK. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show a slightly improving picture of 132, 000 vacancies, but this is still 48% higher than the pre-covid levels.
Rob Easton, Head of Environmental Health here at Shield Safety, considers how young people could play a vital part in supporting hospitality businesses and gaining valuable skills for life.
For young people, the opportunity to work in pubs and restaurants provides many benefits. It is an introduction into the world of employment, giving them the chance to learn life skills for the future to potentially be the start of a long career in hospitality. The well-earned wage can also give a sense of independence and help them understand budgeting, and with reports of wages rising 10% over the last year and ahead of the national wage increases, a job in hospitality is becoming more and more attractive.
Likewise, by employing young people, food business owners benefit from having extra support at potentially peak times, have the prospect of nurturing the talent of a future full-time employee and valued member of the team, and have an insight into the needs and wants of their generation and potential customers. Unfortunately, for some business owners, the fear of falling foul of the law means they shy away from employing young people, leading them to miss out on a valuable area of recruitment.
Confusion around the difference between a child and a young person can also hinder business owners. A child is someone below the minimum school leaving age, this being the last Friday in June in the year they would normally take GCSEs. A young person is someone aged 16 or 17 who is above the minimum school-leaving age. There are different requirements for employing children and young persons.
This simple checklist will steer you through these requirements and help you ensure a positive experience for your business, guests, and, of course, your new employee.
• Hours needed
Consider the hours that you need young people to work. These hours are limited during the week but are longer at weekends and during school holidays. You can download our guide to restrictions by completing the form at the end of the blog.
• Job to be done
What tasks would you like them to do? Dependent on their age, there are limitations on tasks that they can do. For example, 16- and 17-year-olds can serve alcohol, as long as the sale has been approved by a responsible person.
• Local bye-laws
Are there any further restrictions through local byelaws? Contact the Education Department at your Local Authority to understand if the council operates a Work Permit scheme for those under school leaving age. These schemes will typically restrict children from working in commercial kitchens. Also check any local restrictions on serving alcohol, as some councils may prevent under 18’s selling alcohol that is not in a sealed container.
• Risk assessment
Understand the hazards and controls arising from the tasks young people will be completing. It is likely that you have risk assessments already for these tasks, but these must be reviewed to ensure they consider the specific risks associated with young persons and children, namely:
- Lack of experience, this means that they will require extra training and supervision, both during induction and ongoing.
- Being unaware of risks, they may be unaware of obvious risks, as they are unfamiliar with practices and equipment. Again, extra training and supervision should be undertaken to ensure they fully understand the risk. The risk assessment may find that there are some tasks that are not suitable for them to complete, because of the complexity of equipment or skills required. These tasks should be documented and clearly communicated to the child / young person and other team members.
- Lack of maturity, this may lead to horseplay or dangerous behaviour. Clearly explain the behaviors expected within the workplace, and also how they can raise any concerns they have about safety or other aspects of the job.
Physical strength is required to complete the task safely. Check that the child / young person is capable of safely lifting the objects required and they follow instructions on how to do them safely.
• Apply for a work permit.
If your local council does operate a Work Permit scheme, apply for one before the child starts work. Failure to obtain a work permit is an offense and can lead to fines of up to £1,000.
• Communicate with the parent or guardian.
Ensure the parent or guardian understand the tasks that will be completed, as well as the hazards and controls associated with those tasks. It is common practice for businesses to document a separate risk assessment for children and young persons and use this to communicate with the parents or guardians. You can use the template provided here.
• Ongoing supervision and review of risk assessment.
Children and young persons will require additional supervision to ensure their work practices are safe and they have followed the training and instructions. It is also a good opportunity to see how they are progressing in the workplace and review the tasks they complete. As they become more experienced and mature, it is quite possible that the work they complete becomes more complex and they can support the business further. Ensure that the risk assessments capture all tasks they complete and communicate to parents/guardians any changes made. Also, monitor the hours worked to ensure they are within the limits imposed.
Work experience and apprenticeships
Work experience is a great way for students to understand the workplace and see if a career in hospitality is for them. You will still need to complete a risk assessment for a child completing work experience but will not require a Work Permit from the Local Authority. For those employees on a recognised apprenticeship scheme, they can undertake some tasks that may have been identified as high risk for other young persons, for example operating a deep fat fryer. Apprentices can undertake these tasks as part of their training and ensuring they are suitably trained and supervised by a competent person.
Employing a younger worker can be extremely beneficial to your business. For more information on this, check out our webinar on Thursday 29th June 2023 here or get in touch with us today.
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