Risk Management Concerns When Hiring Minors
Written by Ryan Watry
In my daily conversations with tree care companies, finding good employees seems to be the number one issue they face. Sometimes the solution to that problem is hiring a minor to help. Hiring someone under the age of 18 does create some different risks and needs than hiring an adult. Here are three areas to be aware of when considering hiring a minor.
1. State Specific – Each state will have a similar but specific view on the regulations surrounding employing minors. Start by contacting your state’s Department of Workforce Development to find out specific restrictions that may apply. For example in Wisconsin, tree work is considered hazardous employment. This means that a minor can not operate machinery including chippers, skid steers, chainsaws, etc.. They are permitted to work on a ground crew, cleaning up and dragging brush. You also should ask about other employment guidelines such as, the number of hours they may work and if they need a work permit.
2. General Liability & Business Auto Insurance – Depending on your insurance carrier there may be restrictions in your general liability and/or business auto policies that restrict what a person under a certain age can do and what vehicles, if any, they are allowed to drive. Many insurance companies do not want anyone under the age of 21 to drive for your company. So it is important to check with your agent to see if there are any restrictions on employees under 18. If you are struggling with young driver eligibility, creating a driver management program within your company will help. Check out this article which talks specifically about creating a driver management program.
3. Workers’ Compensation – Workers compensation insurance will cover any employee regardless of age. However, there are different benefits added in for someone under 18 who gets hurt. Again, these benefits differ from state to state, so we recommend checking with your insurance agent on your state’s specifics. In Wisconsin, if an employee under the age of 18 sustains an injury that results in a partial or permanent disability, the lost wages (or indemnity portion of the claim) paid out will be triple what they would normally be for someone over 18. Also you can be fined by the state and OSHA if it is found that the minor employee was operating equipment they were not permitted to.
After researching each of these three areas, you will be able to determine if hiring a minor is right for your business. Who knows this, may lead a young person down a career path in this exciting industry.