Employing school leavers - a change in the law. Image of students sitting exams

From the start of the 2013/14 Academic year, the law on how long young people are required to stay in education or training has changed.

'Raising the Participation Age' (RPA) means that young people must now stay in education or training:

  • until the end of the academic year in which they reach the age of 17 or
  • From 26th June 2015, when all young people will need to stay in education or training until their 18th birthday, where they don’t have a level three qualification.

We take a look at what this means for Employers. [Article updated 2015]

Young people will now have a choice to either:

  • continue full-time study in a school, college or with another accredited training provider (the study must lead to accredited training) or
  • take full-time work *  or volunteer or set up their own business (be self-employed) combined with part-time education or training ** that leads to accredited training or
  • take on an apprenticeship.

*  Full-time work is defined in this situation as a job lasting for eight or more weeks consecutively and for 20 or more hours per week (so this does not include summer jobs).

** Part-time accredited training is defined as a minimum of 280 guided learning hours per year (so, equivalent to one day per week, although it doesn't have to be done like this, it can be taken as distance or evening learning).

So, if you employ young people what does this mean?

There are no new legal duties for employers of young people (you don't need to check they're participating in training, which was originally intended by the draft legislation).

If you employ a young person on ‘full-time’ (see above) work they’re required to take part-time education or training alongside their work. You’re not, however, required to give these young employees time off to do this training, although employers are asked to consider how they could support the young employee’s learning (set shifts/hours to fit in with the training, for example) – this doesn’t apply in Wales and Scotland, where they must allow the employee time off work to study a relevant qualification. In England, it’s not specified whether or not an Employer should be paid for any time taken off.

The government fully funds all accredited training for 16-18 year olds and local authorities have a duty to secure education or a training place for all young people.

What if a young person you employ doesn’t take up part-time training? As an employer you have no responsibility to ensure this happens and no action will be taken against an employer if their employee fails to undertake the training. However, Employers should check school leavers qualifications to ascertain whether or not the young person will be required to continue in some form of education or training whilst in employment.

The employee themself has a legal duty to undertake the training.

If you are an Employer and need ongoing professional help with any staff/freelance issues, or a Contractor/Freelancer/Employee with a complicated employment related problem, then talk to Lesley at The HR Kiosk  - a Human Resources Consultancy for small businesses – our fees are low to reflect the pressures on small businesses and you can hire us for as much time as you need.

Please note that the advice given on this website and by our advisers is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.

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Lesley Furber
HR Consultant
Updated on
February 21, 2020

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