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Thursday, June 24, 2021

State tweaks youth employment requirements, removes schools from process

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Some Indiana employers will have to use a new system to register youth employees, and schools will no longer issue work permits, according to new requirements issued by the Indiana Department of Labor.

All Indiana employers that employ five or more workers who are under 18 must use the new Youth Employment System (YES) to register those employees with the labor department.

YES will replace the “Intent to Employ” form, which had to go through the employee’s school.

Michael Myers, director of the DOL’s Bureau of Youth Employment, said the new system will be more efficient.

“Now they can interview, and they can make the decision, and they can register in less than two minutes and have that employee on the line working right then and there,” he said during a press conference. “That’s the crux of it. That’s the beauty of it.”

The new requirements take effect July 1 and do not change the state’s work-hour requirement for minors. Employers must still comply with the Teens Work Hour restrictions, which stipulate how long certain workers under 18 can work per day and week.

The YES registry will go live in early June to give employers time to get familiar with the system. Employers who don’t comply with the new requirements can face penalties of up to $400 per infraction.

The new requirements come from the 2020 legislative session, when state lawmakers amended the law.

Part of the reason schools have been involved in the work permit system is to make sure students’ education was still a priority. Myers said that was accomplished.

“No need to get the schools involved anymore,” he said.

Mary Lang, a spokesperson for Wayne Township schools, said the change ultimately won’t be good for students.

“While not being required to issue work permits does lessen the workload for an already hard-working school system, we do not believe this is good for students in the long term,” she said in a statement. “Helping students stay on track with attendance is extremely important to their academic success.”

Warren Morgan, chief academic officer for Indianapolis Public Schools, said the district is still reviewing the change to understand how it will affect students.

“Our top priority is ensuring IPS students receive a quality education and they’re focused on their work in the classroom first,” he said in a statement. “We think it’s important that accountability is shared by students, families and employers to maintain a work-school balance that positions teens for academic success.”

Myers acknowledged one potential impact of the change is a dip in revenue for the labor department related to fines, which could lead to fewer child labor inspectors.

When state lawmakers amended labor laws in 2020, one of the effects was an expected decrease of about 50% in the Employment of Youth Fund, which is funded by fines and pays for inspectors’ salaries.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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