30th March 2022

Young Workers and the WTR: You need to make sure the kids are all right

When I was 16 I got a job in a certain high street retailer (not just any retailer…) and I remember liking the fact that I sometimes got a longer break than some of my older colleagues. Little did I know that this was because of the Working Time Regulations (WTR).

There are specific provisions for young workers in the WTR to better protect their health and safety. So, while for me it was a great bonus to get a longer break, it actually represented an obligation on the employer as well. My final blog in this series looks at some of those extra protections given to young workers and the extra obligations for employers.

What is a young worker?

The WTR defines a young worker as someone who is not yet 18 but is over school age (in Scotland that is 16).

Weekly hours

In general, employers have a duty to make sure that workers do not exceed an average of 48 hours in an average working week.

There is however further protection for young workers in relation to this. Firstly, the young worker cannot work more than 8 hours per day or more than 40 hours per week. If the young worker has more than one job then the total number of hours across all the jobs are aggregated and count towards the daily and weekly limits.


Whereas for workers over 18, the WTR requires a break of 20 minutes when the worker has worked more than 6 hours, young workers are entitled to a break of 30 minutes when they work more than 4.5 hours a day. The 30 minutes should ideally be consecutive.

Rest periods

Young workers must have a daily rest period of 12 hours in each 24 hour period of work (compared to 11 hours for older workers) and need to have a continuous period of 48 hours rest each week.

Night work

There is a prohibition on night work for young workers. That is work either between the hours of 10pm and 6am (or where the contract provides for work during that time, 11pm and 7am).

Remember when employing young workers that the usual provisions of the WTR apply but there are extra provisions as well to protect them. Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their workers and so it is important to keep these extra protections in mind when employing young workers. Remember also that you cannot treat a young worker differently or refuse a job because of the extra protections afforded to them. That would be discrimination.

If you have any question about this, or any employment law topic, why not sign up for our monthly Ask The Expert webinars? Alternatively, please contact any member of the Blackadders Employment Team operating across Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth. We would be happy to help.

Blair Duncan, Solicitor


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