Maximising your youth workforce

SIOBHAN LEATHLEY
Last updated 05:00 02/04/2014

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Youth worker's business inexperience and unfamiliarity with Employment Law, means owners need to spell out their employer obligations and the youth's responsibilities.

Hamilton not-for-profit Young Workers Resource Centre provides support and advice to youth in employment.

Manager Tony Stevens said one of the biggest issues he came across was youth workers not understanding whether they were a casual or a full-time employee.

He said employers liked flexible working agreements, because they acted as a "get out of jail free card".

However, workers did not realise that they were not guaranteed work hours nor income.

Another was employers not providing young workers with an Employment Agreement. Few youth's knew they were legally entitled to one, he said.

"They're excited about having a job and don't think through what they'll do if something bad happens."

Those who did receive one, rarely understood it.

EEO diversity consultant Skot Barnett said most youths developed the necessary skills and experience of work, and the working environment through their first job.

"If they haven't worked before, then were unlikely to know what their entitlements were, nor how they were expected to behave."

Therefore, employers needed to talk them through this process.

"If they're hiring someone who's under 18, then they need to tell them who will sign their Employment Agreement."

Youth development trust Get in2life general manager Scott Mackenzie said he often hired high-school or university students.

When offering employment, he said he always encouraged successful candidates to get their parents - or someone familiar with Employment Law- to check their Employment Agreement before signing. 

He said to them:"... [it is] so you're clear on some of the consequences around this and what happens if you're not performing your role."

Employers also needed to ensure the youth understood what they would and would not be paid for.

"If you're going to do two or three days worth of on-site assessment [which employers choose not to pay them for] then make sure it's clear that they will not be paid."

He advised owners to "go with your gut when hiring someone".

Although the youth may have limited business skills and experience, if they had the necessary personality traits - a good attitude and accountability - then they could learn everything else.

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- Fairfax Media

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