The government will be raising the minimum age for the purchase of cigarettes from 16 to 18 years on October 1, which has highlighted a few attendant problems.
Mike McQuillen writes from his Spar store at Wombourne, near Wolverhampton, to say that this presumably means that the minimum age for staff to sell cigarettes will also increase to age 18. "This presents something of a difficulty as we employ two 16-year-old students at weekends," says Mike. "We get round the alcohol sales by having another member of staff scanning the alcohol through, but if we have to do this for cigarettes as well, then employing staff under the age of 18 years is not viable."
He wonders whether he can make the two 16-year-olds redundant. It's a good question and many of you will be in the same boat.
An Acas employment advisor I spoke to says it isn't simple. An employer can use a change in the law to justify redundancy - such as if the employee can no longer fulfil the job they were hired to do. In that case the dismissal would be fair.
But for a redundancy to be deemed fair there has to be a genuine and significant diminution in the role that the person was recruited for. He couldn't put a figure on this - all he could say was that it would be a "ball park figure" and that it would be down to a case-by-case basis. But you cannot just arbitrarily sack somebody. The shop owner has a duty to look for alternative work for staff.
Another point to note is that since last October, when the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 came into force, age discrimination at both ends of the scale was swept away (although, for once, it was the older people who got all the headlines).
It means that 16-year-olds are now entitled to redundancy, provided they have worked for you for two years - which they may have done if they started off doing your news rounds.