7 key factors to consider when hiring junior staff

From contributing fresh perspectives and insights, to their eagerness and willingness to learn, younger staff have a lot to offer workplaces.
7 key factors to consider when hiring junior staff

From contributing fresh perspectives and insights, to their eagerness and willingness to learn, younger staff have a lot to offer, and these values can translate into increased productivity levels and improved workplace culture.

While there is a vast range of benefits for both the employer and employee when it comes to hiring younger staff, businesses need to acknowledge that the transition from school into the workforce isn’t always easy. Helping to create a smooth transition into the workforce will not only foster productive participation on part of the newest employee but also makes for a more positive working environment.

In this article, we discuss seven key factors employers should be aware of when engaging young employees, and provide tips that’ll help build a best-practice approach to managing a younger employee base.

1. What is a junior employee?

The definition of a junior employee is an employee who is under the age of 21.

The specific requirements surrounding the engagement of junior employees are generally governed by the relevant modern award or registered agreements.

Furthermore, it should be crucially noted that different States and Territories will have varying laws that stipulate the minimum age at which an employee may be engaged, the number of hours that employee can work, and the type of work they can perform. However, some states such as New South Wales, do not prescribe any minimum age restrictions.

2. Junior pay rates

Most modern awards and registered agreements have a specific minimum wage for junior employees. Typically, their wages are calculated based on a percentage of the relevant adult pay rate, based on their age. The percentage is compared against the minimum base rate for the specific classification level the employee falls under. These are called junior rates.

As a junior employee’s age increases, so does their corresponding minimum wage until they reach the 21-year-old adult rate prescribed by a modern award or Enterprise Agreement (EA).

If there’s no junior rate in the relevant modern award or EA, then the employee will be paid the adult rate. Sometimes the Modern Award or EA may specify when a junior employee will be paid adult rates, hence age may not always indicate whether a junior employee receives junior rates.

3. Can my junior employee work during school hours?

Junior employees who wish to work during school hours must generally be of the minimum school leaving age or have completed the minimum years of schooling.

These thresholds differ between each State and Territory.

4. Availabilities

Employers must be aware of and respect a junior employee’s limited availability. Typically, junior employees, particularly those below the age of 18, will be engaged in schooling and education, irrespective of whether it’s a secondary or tertiary engagement.

As a result, modern awards may prescribe conditions of engagement for junior employees, which may include ensuring the hours that a junior employee works don’t impede upon their schooling. So, when rostering employees, businesses must consider the fact that their availabilities are more likely to closely align with after-school hours and weekends.

In addition, junior employees under the age of 18, will most likely not have their driver’s license, and would be reliant on getting other forms of transport to and from work. Therefore, businesses should also be conscious of the fact that it may be unreasonable to have an employee start super early or finish very late, in instances where the employee is dependent upon an adult taking them to and from work.

5. To sign or not to sign: authority

Junior employees under the age of 18 may not be able to sign off on specific agreements or forms on their own. Under various awards or registered agreements, there may be requirements stipulating that a parent or guardian will need to sign off on an agreement alongside or on behalf of the employee for the agreement to take full effect. This is predominantly the case as a junior employee’s age may impede their understanding of specific agreements or arrangements and their implications.

6. Work experience, placements, and internships: what’s the working arrangement?

Whilst such arrangements afford students a valuable opportunity to engage in integrated learning and apply learned theory in the workplace, depending upon whether the arrangement is one of placement, work experience, or some other trial, will dictate how the employee should be engaged.  Pursuant to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), a vocational placement is undertaken as a requirement of an education or training course and is undertaken with an employer for which that individual isn’t entitled to be paid any remuneration. A vocational placement may also be referred to as work experience if such work experience is a requirement of an education or training course.

However, if the arrangement is not one of vocational placement and instead the arrangement is one that involves the individual performing productive work (other than observation and learning), the individual may need to be paid as an employee.

7. What are your employer obligations?

Before engaging a junior employee, you should consider if a modern award or enterprise agreement applies to the individual’s employment so you can be assured that you are adhering to the obligations under such instruments when it comes to the engagement of junior employees. As this may be the employee’s first job, it is important that you conduct a careful and measured onboarding process so that the employee is aware of their workplace rights and the expectations of their role.

Employers must also remember to do the following:

  • Provide all employees with a Fair Work Information Statement;
  • Provide casual employees with the Casual Employment Information Statement;
  • Provide employees with a copy of their relevant award or registered agreement;
  • Discuss how the employee’s pay is calculated, when they will be paid, and how they will receive their pay slips;
  • Make employees aware of any employment-related policies and procedures applicable to the workplace; and
  • Provide employees with a contact person should they need to ask questions about their employment.

How can Citation HR help?

If any of this information has raised any questions please reach out to our workplace relations experts via our 24/7 HR Advice Line.

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Not a Citation HR client? To learn more about how Citation HR can support your business and streamline its people management, reach out to our friendly team here. 

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