Youth Workers

Who is a youth employee?

New Zealand does not have general minimum age requirement for employees who are employed as youth employees. However, there are some differences in management of youth workers. The Ministry of Youth Development (Te Manatū Whakahiato Taiohi) promotes the interests of young people aged between 12 and 24 years inclusive. The Ministry promotes the government’s Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa.

Younger employees are often employed to be youth workers because they identify with and can be more easily accepted by the young people they work with.

What is youth work?

Some community venues in the city employ youth workers and run projects and programmes for young people in their communities. Youth work is about working with young people and supporting their positive development. It is centred around helping young people connect with and contribute to their whānau and communities and to feel comfortable with their own identity.

Employing a youth employee


Youth employees should be treated with the same courtesy and protocol afforded to regular employees.

Some considerations when employing a youth employee may include:

  • How well will the youth employee fit with the rest of the team?
  • Are there many youth employees already within the community venue?
  • Are there roles which suit youth employees?

When employing youth employees, the Human Rights Act 1993 protects employees from unlawful discrimination in a number of areas of life, including when applying for jobs.

Employment agreements

Youth employees employed by the community venues should have a written employment agreement.

  • employers have a statutory duty to deal with their employees in good faith
  • youth employees have a right to join a union
  • they have legal entitlements to sick leave and annual leave


As of 1 April 2019, the adult minimum wage is $17.70 per hour, which for a 40-hour week is $708.

A lower minimum wage of $14.16 an hour (or $566.40 for 40 hours) applies to “starting-out workers” and trainees.

Starting-out workers are those who are:

  • 16 or 17 and in their first six months of work with you, or
  • 18 or 19, have been on the benefit for six or more months, and since starting the benefit, are in their first six months of work with any employer, or
  • 16, 17, 18 or 19 and doing at least 40 credits a year of industry training as part of their employment agreement with you.

That lower rate of $14.16 ($566.40) also applies to trainee workers – that is, someone who is 20 or older and doing at least 60 credits a year of industry training as part of their employment agreement with you.

The minimum wage rates are usually adjusted in April each year.

Workers under 16: Their hours and wages

If your community venue employs someone under 16, the young person’s hours of work will be limited. First, school-aged children (under 16) can’t work during school hours. They also can’t work on school nights – that is, between 10 pm and 6 am (they can work during those hours if there’s a government-approved code of practice allowing it, but as of January 2018 there’s no such code of practice).

There are no minimum wage rates for workers under 16. However, your organisation could use the starting out minimum wage as a guideline.

Types of work available for young employees

Every employee’s work environment must be safe. However, there are some additional restrictions that apply to workers under 15. There are certain types of work and activities they can’t do, including:

  • construction work
  • heavy lifting
  • working with machinery (or helping others who are working with machinery)
  • working with or near hazardous substances (things that are flammable, corrosive or toxic for example)
  • any other kind of work that’s likely to cause them harm.

A person under 15 also can’t be present as a bystander in any areas where those kinds of work are being done, unless an adult is directly and actively supervising them. They can, however, work in the office or retail area of an organisation or business that does those kinds of work.

People under 18 can’t work in pubs, bars and bottle stores (called “restricted areas” in the Sale of Alcohol Act 2012). However, that ban doesn’t apply if the young person is preparing or serving meals, doing cleaning or maintenance, or checking or removing cash.

Youth workers’ Code of Ethics

A Code of Ethics sets out the commitments youth workers make in order to ensure safe and ethical youth work practice. A copy of the Code of Ethics for Youth Work in Aotearoa is available here.

The Code of Ethics includes many clauses, some of which relate to the training and supervision of youth workers, including:

  • Youth Workers should make it a high priority to participate in formal and informal training and professional development
  • Youth Workers will participate in regular and on-going external supervision for the purposes of professional development, personal support, and familiarisation with all organisational and practice issues

Police checks on workers under 16

There is no legal requirement for employers to conduct police checks on employees under 16 years of age. The exception is if they are working with vulnerable people.

Management of youth employees

Boards have a responsibility to ensure that youth employees have the time and capacity to attend training, networking and supervision meetings, to enable them to meet their necessary commitments. This means that when a youth employee is employed, budget considerations should include not only the wages and project costs of a youth employee, but also training and supervision costs. Sufficient additional hours should be incorporated into a youth employees’ paid weekly work hours to allow them to attend these extra activities.

Communication, accountability and support

For most youth employees the relationship between themselves and young people is a voluntary one. Youth work involves working with young people where and when they are available. This may mean working evening and weekend hours at a venue other than a community venue. Youth workers may not be seen very often at the community venue, and this may increase feelings of isolation in their job. To provide support, a process should be established whereby the youth employee has a space to regular meet with the venue coordinator and other appropriate support, such as a designated member of the management committee. This time can be used to discuss projects, timelines, issues, concerns and successes.