From lower pay rates to convenient tax breaks, there are a host of benefits of hiring minors to work for your business. Teenage workers often have flexible schedules, especially during the summertime, and many are energetic, hungry to learn and determined to do a good job, knowing that it helps them just as much as it does their employer.
But even with those advantages, business owners need to carefully consider some of the drawbacks that may come with hiring minors, such as legal risks. Hiring minors is not going to be worth it for everyone, and the last thing you want is to end up feeling like a professional babysitter.
Depending on the role and your company’s needs, a worker doesn’t necessarily have to be 18 or older to serve your business well. There are multiple upsides to employing minors.
If you hire minors, they likely will save your company a lot of money due to their lack of prior work experience and fair expectation of receiving minimum wage payment. By contrast, young adult workers and older professionals may try to bargain for more pay in exchange for their work experience.
Because most minors are also active in school and other extracurricular activities, they will most likely work part time, which takes costly benefits programs, generally allotted to full-time workers, out of the conversation. This can be a cost-efficient way of expanding your workforce. Just make sure you don’t make this costly salary mistake.
The top reason Gen Z workers are unemployed is because they quit. This is often due to having unmet expectations such as higher pay, flexibility and benefits.
Hiring young staff members also may have tax benefits; some states may give you tax credits for having minors work for you. For example, in New Jersey, the Senate Labor Committee introduced a bill to provide tax credits to businesses that hire workers who are younger than 18 to compensate for an increase in the state’s minimum wage.
Many small business entrepreneurs can even hire their own children to reduce tax costs, such as FICA taxes. But always be prepared for the IRS to verify that your children can and do actually work for your company legally. Consult an expert tax preparer or legal counsel regarding tax credits for employees who are minors or relatives you want to hire. [Read related article: How to Cheat Uncle Sam]
Because work is newer to them than to many older employees, minors may be more enthusiastic about entry-level roles and more likely to be content with the work experience alone. You also may be surprised by what they give your company in return.
Younger employees bring fresh perspectives to the workforce, and they also may have ideas about how to be more efficient with tasks or stay current with the times. In addition, they may be more engaged, motivated to learn new things and likely to take pride in demonstrating the core values of your business.
By hiring young workers who are eager to learn, you can have a positive influence on many people by teaching them practical soft skills, such as problem-solving, creativity, time management, organization and accountability. The training you provide can play an integral role in the personal and professional development of tomorrow’s future leaders, and many business owners will find that rewarding.
Another benefit of hiring youth to join your company may be that it increases your company’s diversity, equity and inclusion. Many applicants today are discriminated against for using nonbinary gender pronouns on their resumes, and these workers are in just as much need of a job and professional development as anyone else. This is a chance to make your workplace more diverse.
If you’re thinking of hiring minors, there are some drawbacks to carefully consider.
One of the major disadvantages of hiring younger workers is their lack of loyalty toward employers. According to Lever’s 2022 Great Resignation report, 65 percent of Gen Zers plan to leave their jobs by the end of the year, and more than 13 percent are more than twice as likely as workers of other generations to leave their jobs in the next month.
Because teens are still gaining professional experience in the working world and trying to find their sense of direction, they may be quick to chase other opportunities. Therefore, there’s a chance that many businesses will waste their training resources and time on younger employees who will leave to further their work endeavors elsewhere.
When hiring teenage workers, employers must take into account that some roles require a certain amount of experience and expertise. Unfortunately, most minors won’t have this background so early in life, and this inexperience may hurt your company’s business growth, brand reputation and return on investment.
Though this doesn’t apply to all aspiring professionals, a lot of young workers are ignorant of commonplace policies, procedures and expectations in the workplace. This may be demonstrated by being tardy, not properly following the rules set by your human resources team, misjudging the company culture and attempting to call out of work more often than permitted. These behaviors will not only prevent them from successfully fulfilling their role but also disrupt other employees’ work experiences.
One reason employers prefer to hire workers with more experience, who are often older, is because they need to know their employees can handle the pressure of the job. Younger employees may struggle with high-pressure tasks or responsibilities due to a lack of instruction or on-the-job learning. They may also not know how to efficiently get tasks completed or done in a way that is most appropriate, corporately speaking. They could end up buckling under the pressure to the point of draining colleagues’ time, failing to get their assignments done or quitting the job altogether.
Simply put, the emotions of teenagers can be messy. They’re experiencing an influx of hormones and are routinely faced with new situations. Consequently, they’re unlikely to be able to manage their emotions as well as older employees can. They’re still growing in maturity, and there may be tough situations they are presented with that can cause them to get flustered and react negatively in ways that harm your work environment.
Business owners that don’t strictly adhere to laws regarding the hiring of minors may be putting themselves and their company in legal jeopardy. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets rules regarding appropriate pay practices, work hours and safe working conditions for minors. Ignorance generally isn’t a legal defense, so you won’t be able to claim you just didn’t know about regulations if the authorities question something.
In addition, you’re likely to face legal consequences if you don’t follow employment laws. In 2022, a McDonald’s franchise owner was fined more than $57,000 after the Department of Labor (DOL) found them in violation of laws regarding the hours teens are allowed to work. In a more extreme example, in early 2023, the DOL fined a food safety sanitation provider $1.5 million for illegally employing more than 100 teens in dangerous roles.
To grow a workforce that fosters a positive culture and strong performance, businesses should hire the candidates who are most qualified, within the confines of local, state and federal laws.
Depending on the type of business you own, there are special legal considerations to be aware of when you’re deciding whether to hire minors.
Seek the necessary documents that allow you to hire minors. These may include work permits, age certificates or both. To find out your state’s requirements, you can use the DOL’s table of employment and age certification chart. Be aware that once you receive your new employee’s work permit, it will typically expire within a year, so you will need to repeat the process when appropriate.
According to the FLSA, companies may be permitted to pay what’s called the “opportunity wage,” of $4.25 per working hour, to minors or anyone under 20 years old for their first 90 days of work. After that point, employers are required to pay the workers the state-set minimum wage or more. This depends on the state or locality employers and workers reside in, since some have regulations calling for a higher minimum wage for minors and others don’t allow payment lower than the state minimum wage at any time.
The FLSA doesn’t allow minors to work in any jobs that are considered hazardous. Workers under age 16, especially, are not authorized to work in any heavy-duty manufacturing jobs, mining, transportation, construction, machine operation or utility services to the public. This is a large part of the reason the aforementioned food safety sanitation provider was fined. Check your local and state laws for any other exceptions or constraints you’ll need to be mindful of.
The best way to determine if hiring minors is worth it is to consider the specifics of your business, the goals you are trying to achieve, the role the minor would be filling, and whether you have the time and resources. Will you be able to strike a balance between providing a work experience that benefits both you and the minor, or will you merely be occupying their time and offering little reward?
Hiring minors might be worth it if …
Hiring minors might not be worth it if …