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Young workers

young worker (cafe)
"My first job was the worst experience of my life. I was over-worked, underpaid, and my boss was a bully. I stuck at it for nearly two years, and lost all my confidence in the process. Looking back on it, I wish I’d had the courage to do something about it earlier."
Vicky, Nottingham

Are you young and working? Or, thinking about starting work for the first time? Don't let your job become a bad experience you'd rather forget - Have a read of our guide for Young Workers. It explains in clear language what rights you have at work and how to make sure you are being treated properly by your employer.

The guide deals with the most common employment problems. It doesn't cover everything, because every work situation is different. You should always get advice if you are unsure of what rights you have, or how you should deal with a problem.

If your workplace has a recognized trade union, you should think carefully about joining as they can help to explain your rights and deal with any problems that may arise in the course of your employment.

It's important to remember that you should act quickly if you have a problem at work. It's better to get things sorted out before it gets worse, or makes you ill, or feel that you have to leave. You might decide to make a claim against your employer at a tribunal (that's the legal term for a court which deals with employment issues). Tribunals have strict time limits and if you delay you could lose your right to make a claim.

There are loads of different types of jobs out there, from working on a building site to sitting behind a desk. You might be hired on a casual basis during the holidays, or you might consider your job to be the start of a long career.

No matter what your job is, certain rights always apply to you, like the right to a minimum wage and the right to get breaks and holidays. But you get more rights if you have the status of employee rather than another type of worker.

How do I know if I am an employee?

It's sometimes difficult to tell. You might be an employee even if your employer says you're not. Agency and casual workers may be employees, depending on the situation. It's important to find out whether you are an employee. If you think you might be, but your employer says that you're not, speak to an adviser at your local advice centre.

  • You can find an experienced adviser at your nearest advice centre, Citizen's Advice Bureau or Law Centre. Look in the phone book or use the directory in 'links to other websites' on the right to find one near you. * See the index on the right for more information about your rights as a young worker.

Your contract of employment

If you are an employee, you have a contract of employment whether or not it is put in writing. The contract of employment may be agreed verbally or by how people act. You have a right to ask your employer to put down the main terms of your contract in writing if this hasn't been done already. The contract will say things like how much you will be paid, what your hours of work are and how much holiday you can have. Read through your contract and keep it in a safe place, you may need it if you have a problem.

Agency Work

If you get work through an agency but are not employed directly by the agency or the hirer i.e. you are paid only for each assignment you do, you are entitled to access the same on site facilities available to employees who are employed directly by the hirer. This could include access to the canteen, crèche, etc.
After 12 weeks of working for the agency at the same hirer then you become entitled to receive equal terms of employment as if you had been employed directly by the hirer. This means your rate of pay, bonus, holidays, sick leave, pension arrangements etc. should be the same as someone who is directly employed by the hirer.

Can you spare a few minutes?
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Jane Bowers
Updated December 2011 - Advicenow would like to acknowledge and thank Amy Woods of Islington Law Centre for her help in updating this guide.

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