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Employing minors: What are the rules?

  • Employing minors is a common practice for small businesses, especially during the summer when they are out of school.
  • However, there are strict federal and state laws that employers must follow when hiring workers under the age of 18.
  • Homebase HR Pro provides live access to certified HR experts who can answer any questions you may have around child labor laws.

Can a minor be employed?

The short answer is yes, you can hire minors under the age of 18 to work at your small business. However, there are strict child labor laws governed by state and federal departments of labor.

As long as you follow the rules that state and federal law stipulates in regards to the number of hours minors may work, the types of jobs they can partake in, it can be beneficial to hire minors to work for you. For example, a minor employee comes with less experience and will work at a lower rate (as long as it’s minimum wage).

If you are looking to hire employees under 18 years of age for the first time, it’s important to follow the rules and regulations in place under federal and state law, or you could face serious fines and penalties.

The federal and state child labor law requirements can be difficult to understand at times, especially if you do not have a small business human resources team to guide you through the process. When you sign up for Homebase HR Pro, you will receive live access to certified HR experts who can answer the questions you may have about hiring and employing minors.

They will also help you create a section in your employee handbook around minor employees so you can clearly lay out that your policies are complying with the federal and state laws. Additionally, they can review your existing policies to help you make sure you are following other federal laws like the FMLA, employee rights, blue laws, minimum wage rules, workplace safety, and more.

What are the wage requirements for employing minors?

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour for employees, but if you are temporarily employing a minor for a determined period of time, like for the summer, you may be allowed to pay them a lower rate.

The Fair Labor Standards Act allows employers to pay workers under the age of 20 a “youth minimum wage.” The youth minimum wage is $4.25 per hour, and you can pay it to the worker during the first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment.

However, it is important to note that if the worker is employed with you for more than 90 days, or if they turn 20 during that timeframe, you are required to begin paying them the standard minimum wage rate that is required in your state.

Certain cases like student-learning programs or internships may allow you to obtain a special permit or certification to provide employees with a subminimum wage. However, you are not allowed to displace any existing employees in order to hire a worker that you pay a subminimum wage to.

Besides the temporary youth minimum wage rule, you must adhere to all the same wage and hour laws that adult employees are covered by. You must withhold the required taxes from them, pay overtime to employees over the age of 15 who can work for more than 40 hours a week, and offer the same benefits to them as you provide for the rest of your team.

Remember, Homebase HR Pro’s experts can help you determine if your wage and hour policies are complying with state and federal laws. Get started today to learn more about how easy it can be to understand child labor laws with a little help.


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How many hours a day can minors work?

While there are no federal laws dictating when a 16- or 17-year-old employee can work, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does have rules around when minors 14 and 15 years of age can be employed.

The laws provide different working hour restrictions for during the school year and when students are out for the summer, or when it is a weekend:

  • 3 hours on a school day when school is in session;
  • 18 hours in a school week;
  • 8 hours when school is not in session;
  • 40 hours in a non-school week; and
  • between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day, when it extends to 9 p.m.

Remember, there are also state laws dictating when employees of this age can work, and some states also require minors 16 and 17 years of age to work only a certain period of time. Other states do not allow minors to work at all during school hours, and some even require work permits.

Take a look at your state labor law guide to learn more about what’s required in your area.

Additionally, Homebase HR Pro can help you learn more about your state’s specific laws, and answer any questions that may arise around required work hour restrictions, minor employee rules, and more.