Wednesday, July 7, 2021

A Guide to Hiring Student Employees This Summer

Summertime has arrived, with its typical indicators: unbearable humidity, ice cream trucks, baseball, and—yes—droves of young students looking for part-time gigs. As students from middle schools and high schools around Illinois begin to look for summer employment, employers should revisit their policies on hiring student employees. Below, employers will find great tips on how to properly hire youth workers.

Review Work Permit Requirements 

Aside from several exemptions for agricultural workers, small domestic tasks, and several other special categories of employment, employers wishing to hire minors between the ages of 14 and 16 must obtain and file an employment certificate under Illinois’s Child Labor Law (“the Act”). These permits allow minors to work during summer breaks and outside of school hours. A permit must be signed by either a municipal or county school superintendent or a delegated authority before being sent to the minor’s employer, the Department of Labor, and the minor’s parent or legal guardian. Work permits for minors are valid for one year and may be revoked by request from the child’s parent, guardian, or principal based on the child’s welfare and development. For a student to receive a work permit under the Act, they must submit the following materials to the superintendent or the delegated authority:

  • A description of the work sought by the minor, as well as the exact hours expected for the position;
  • Evidence that the minor is 14 or 15 years old, preferably by producing a copy of the child’s birth certificate;
  • Certain pieces of personal information, including the child’s name, address, social security number, last grade completed, and the names of the child’s parents or guardians; and
  • A statement of physical fitness as outlined in the Act.

Assess Hiring Needs

Employers should be aware of their staffing needs before turning to students to fill vacant positions. Employers cannot hire students under the age of 16 for certain positions based on work settings and tasks deemed hazardous under the Act and by relevant provisions of the Illinois Administrative Code. There are 26 such prohibitions listed in the statute, including employment in connection with mills, factories, workshops, brickyards, beauty parlors, bakeries, theaters, concert halls, hotels, laundromats, airfields, and carwashes, among others. While the Act prohibits these broad categories of work, the Illinois Administrative Code provides greater clarity and guidance as to what kind of work is acceptable or prohibited; for example, a student between the ages of 14 and 16 may work at a traditional movie theater, but may not work for an outdoor or drive-in theater.

Hour Requirements under the Act

The Act establishes when minors can work. No minor under 16 may start work before 7:00 AM, and during the summer, they may not work after 9:00 PM. While school is out of session, minors cannot work more than 8 hours per day or more than 48 hours per week and cannot work more than 6 days per week.

Wage Considerations

The State of Illinois has imposed a legislative scheme to gradually increase the minimum wage for workers, both adult, and minor. Employers must stay apprised of the minimum wage requirements as outlined in the Minimum Wage Law, as the rates have been scheduled to increase on January 1 of every year through 2024. For this calendar year, January 1–December 31, 2021, the minimum wage for workers under the age of 18 is $8.50 per hour, barring minors who have worked more than 650 hours for their employer in a year from the time they were hired. If a minor under 18 has worked more than 650 hours in the year from the time they were hired, an employer is obligated to pay them the same minimum hourly rate prescribed for adult workers, which is $11.00 for the 2021 calendar year.

While some employers might otherwise look to the Cook County Minimum Wage Ordinance to adjust their pay rates, this law does not apply to employees under the age of 18. Thus, the Illinois minimum wage is the relevant pay to consider for student workers. In addition, under the Chicago Minimum Wage Ordinance, employees who work at least 2 hours within the geographic boundaries of Chicago within two weeks are covered under the ordinance, so employers outside the City must also be aware of the requirements set forth if their employees spend compensated time in Chicago.

While the laws and regulations about young employees can be challenging to navigate, it is well worth employers’ time to review your internal procedures and ensure compliance with state and local law. Have a safe and productive summer!