Supervising Children in the Workplace

Apply for a DBS Check

Child labour is a thing of the past and quite rightly too. But the exact legal definition of when “child” starts, and “adult” begins is a bit more nuanced. Young people in the UK get some rights at 16, a few more at 17, and most adult rights at the age of 18. In terms of DBS checks, “child” is defined as anyone under the age of 18. There are many young people under the age of 18 working part time while at school, or undertaking work experience in a range of settings, but what are the rules for adults whose job it is to supervise them?


Scenarios Which Might Require a DBS Check

Whether or not one of your staff will require a DBS check to supervise a work experience student or younger worker will depend on the type of work being undertaken, and the age of the young person involved. The law is very clear in the second respect; only people over the age of 16 qualify for a DBS check, or the equivalent in Scotland or Northern Ireland. So, for younger students undertaking work experience, getting a DBS check is impossible.

For older students, aged 16 or 17, the decision is the same as for any other employee. Whether the young person requires a DBS check will depend on whether they are involved in regulated activity, such as working in a school, or hospital. In most cases, people of any age will need a DBS check to work or volunteer in a care home or school. However, there is also a frequency rule, which means that for short term placements, DBS checks aren’t required. If the young person is volunteering for less than a week, as a one-off, and not staying overnight with the people they are looking after, then they probably don’t need a DBS certificate at all. These decisions are always made as part of a wider safeguarding policy though, which means that young people who are volunteering in schools or care homes are often closely supervised at all times by an older member of staff who is fully disclosed.

For other young people who are undertaking work experience in retail, in an office setting, or in hospitality, there is generally no need for a DBS check at all. It’s good practice however for management to have a general awareness of the risks or dangers to under 18s in the workplace, and to work to minimise their risks – for example not expecting them to stay late into the evening with just one other member of staff.


Take Advice from the Experts

This is all fairly complex, and if you’re not sure whether the proposals you have for work experience meet the legal requirements, then the best advice is to speak to the experts. The DBS come up against this all the time and will be happy to give advice and guidance over the phone or by email to voluntary organisations and employers of all sizes.