For some teens, weekly parental allowances may not be enough to support their love of fashion, cover their social life expenses, or allow for the purchase of a vehicle. In some cases, teens will be the ones to request permission to take on a part-time, after school job and in other cases, parents will make the request of the child. Either way, there are some considerations to make before allowing a teenager to seek employment.

Understanding the Laws

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) set the stage for how children under the age of 18 may seek gainful employment. Those 18 years and older are not affected by the child labor provisions made by the FLSA but all those under the age of 18 must abide by the laws set forth.

Essentially, the child labor laws include the limitations for work hours and occupations held by minors. Other regulations contained in the child labor, non-farm work portion of the FLSA include:

  • Minors aged 14 and 15 are permitted to work outside of school hours.
  • They are not permitted to work in manufacturing, mining, or hazardous environments as listed by the Secretary.
  • This age group is not permitted to work more than 3 hours on a school day, 8 hours on a non-school day or 18 hours in a school week and more than 40 hours in a non-school week such as during summer vacation.
  • Additionally, this age group may not begin work prior to 7 a.m. and cannot work after 7 p.m. except between June 1 and Labor Day when evening work hour allowances are extended to 9 p.m.
  • Job opportunities are limited to work in food service, retail, and gasoline service locations for this age group.
  • These minors also have the option to work up to 23 hours during a school week or 3 hours on a school day if they are enrolled in a Work Experience and Career Exploration Program.

Minors aged 16 and 17 are not permitted to perform jobs which have been declared hazardous by the Secretary of the US Department of Labor. These age groups are not subjected to work hour limitations.

Working the Job Prospects

A parent is likely the primary resource for a child to use when seeking out a job of their own. They will need parental support and guidance in not only choosing the right opportunity but also in looking for one. On one hand, a parent has to back off enough to let their child grow and take responsibility for their own work ethic and job duties. On the other hand, a parent needs to also show their encouragement throughout the job seeking process and during the length of employment. Unless a family is independently wealthy, a young teen's first job can set the path for the rest of their working years.

Here are some of the areas where a parent can help in a teen's job search:

Discussions of Responsibility

Before even filling out the first application, parents should sit with their teen to discuss the reasons for wanting a job. Parents opposed to a teen working should at least take the time listen to the reasons a teen wants to find work or make extra money. Responsibilities should also be discussed, including daily commitment to going to work, responsibilities of keeping up with school, the reduction in social life hours, and consequences should grades drop or other problems arise. Many teens only see the dollar signs of a paycheck and fail to realize how a job can impact their lives in the long run.

Financial Lessons

Young teens are often never properly educated by either their parents or their school in the aspects of finances. Many have no idea how payroll works, how taxes are paid, or how important savings are. While many are just working to support their social life and consumer habits, they still need to have an understanding of personal finances.

Parents should be the first teachers of personal financial concepts, including establishing a bank account, balancing a checking book, detailing an overview of taxes withheld from a paycheck, and setting up a budget that encompasses paying expenses and stashing money into a savings account. Without a basic foundation of money matters, most teens will spend their paychecks without a second thought. Early lessons in financial responsibility will carry over into their adult working lives. Parents should not assume their kids are learning important money lessons at school or elsewhere.

Job Searching

Many first-time jobs for teens will be secured through the networking skills of their parents. It's a parent's decision whether or not they want to essentially hand their kid an opportunity or encourage them to secure a position on their own. Parents can teach a child how to use the classified ads in the newspaper or online and provide their two-cents for what kinds of positions a child might be interested in pursuing.

Job Prep

A parent can help a teen through the process of securing their first job. A joint effort can be made to complete paper job applications fully and properly. While a young teen will likely not have previous employment experience, a cover letter can be created where a teen can express their desire for a particular job position. Parents can check the information for accuracy.

Parents can also help practice interview questions with their child. Entering a job interview for the very first time can be highly intimidating, leading a young applicant to make an iffy first impression. There is still competition even for food service jobs these days, so a teen should work towards a strong interview. Parents can give an overview of how an interview works, what rules to follow, and tips for looking, acting, and dressing professionally for a first interview. Not every teen will be willing to role-play a practice interview with a parent, but parents can still make the offer to help.

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