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How can HR support younger workers?

"Pairing younger employees with more experienced mentors can help them get up to speed," said employee relations expert Jim Moore - ©Odua Images/Adobe Stock

As the UK government considers a proposal that could impact younger workers, we asked HR professionals what employers can do to support young people at work.

The government is consulting on a move that could lower the average age of bus, coach and lorry drivers in the UK, to support more younger drivers into transport careers.

Currently, 18-to-20-year-old bus and coach drivers can only drive routes up to 50km. There is no distance limit for younger drivers of articulated lorries.

The UK government’s consultation on whether to lower the minimum age to drive longer bus routes launched last Thursday (11 April). It is due to close on 5 June.

Business consultant Amanda Caldeira described the consultation’s proposal as a win-win scenario to ease driver shortages and provide more work for younger people. But she urged HR to remember its legal obligations to younger workers.

Speaking to HR magazine, Caldeira said: “I would urge HR leaders to consider how they can support workers in new positions like this, and not to forget that certain legal requirements are in place to ensure the health and safety of persons under the age of 18.”

Read more: Record high numbers of young people are on zero-hours contracts

She added: “Although trained 18-to-20-year-old drivers may soon be legally allowed to drive a coach from Manchester to Southampton, they may need more support to ensure their safety, and the safety of persons their actions affect.”

Younger workers should not be exposed to risk due to their lack of experience, Caldeira continued, so appropriate risk assessment should also form a part of HR’s strategy.

Jim Moore, employee relations expert for HR consultants Hamilton Nash, told HR magazine: “Younger workers are an essential part of a healthy workforce. As they gain experience and hone their skills, they increasingly become a vital source of talent in any succession planning.

“On the flip side, younger workers need a disproportionate amount of onboarding and training from their employer, especially if they are at the very start of their careers. Some of this support will be for workplace matters that could be considered common sense, such as behaviour expectations. 

“Pairing younger employees with more experienced mentors can help them get up to speed, and team-building activities can encourage them to feel part of the wider company."

Moore added that HR should ensure younger workers have access to wellbeing support.

Read more: Young people turning down jobs over transport and uniform costs

“February’s report from the Resolution Foundation found that a third of young people experienced symptoms of a mental health condition,  a rise of 24% since 2000.

“HR leaders should ensure that organisations implement measures that focus on wellbeing at work, identify and manage risks to psychological health, and have a framework for early intervention.

“This could include providing a ‘safe space’ where employees feel able to speak up if they are struggling, without being afraid of any judgement or stigma. HR has to work with management teams to raise awareness and put this support framework in place.”

Focusing on recruitment, Lynne Peabody, CEO of the EY Foundation, a charity that connects employers with young people from low-income backgrounds, recommended a tailored approach.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “It is important that recruiters recognise the actions needed to effectively engage with this demographic.

“We recommend that employers adapt how they recruit by incorporating inclusive practices. This includes offering more guidance during the application process and avoiding the use of competency-based questions, which often require candidates to draw on prior experience. These questions can have a disproportionately negative impact on people from a low-income background. Our Breaking Barriers report sets out practical steps to engage with this audience.”