Could lowering restrictions on youth employment help ease the labor shortage?
Some states think so. Last month Iowa and Minnesota introduced laws to roll back child workplace protections. Minnesota would allow 16-17 year olds to work on construction. Iowa would let 14-15 year olds work at certain meat packing jobs; expand hours of work during the school year and create a liability shield for work -elated injury, illness and death of teens. New Jersey expanded the hours teens can work when school is not in session last year. (At the same time, a similar act in Wisconsin was vetoed and Ohio tanked its attempt to expand child labor.)
Child labor is a hot button issue, with arguments on both sides: working is good for kids and would help the labor shortage to the other side claiming work outside school is too much for kids to handle and harms the labor market.
What is the risk?
As you know, federal law limits the types of jobs children can perform and how many hours they can work each week. As part of the enforcement of these laws, the Department of Labor (DOL) recently found an abuse of child labor laws in Alabama, with kids as young as 12 working. Last year, the DOL found 13 and 14 year olds working for a food safety company cleaning meat plants in Minnesota. Abuse of child labor laws is not a great optic for a business. But with unemployment at record lows, employers are seeking a middle ground to get relief and states are responding.
Individual states can add requirements which typically focus on especially hazardous industries and also lift those restrictions as long as they do not violate the federal standards. During times of economic hardship and low unemployment, states have changed their child labor laws in the past like we are seeing now.
Would hiring teens help your business?
We have blogged about hiring minors before, discussing the advantages (no health insurance, low wages) and pitfalls (hour limits, duty restrictions) of having teens as employees. We work with many clients who find that hiring students for summer jobs is a big help.
As long as you are aware of your state’s requirements–and keep good payroll records to support that–hiring young people can work for you. How to keep track of the changes and requirements in your state? Call us, of course! Whether you need summer help or part-time help year round, our team keeps up with child labor laws so you don’t need to. We can help.