Hiring Youth in Agriculture

by Rachel Aguilar

As the weather warms up and the school year comes to an end, there is an influx in minors looking to work and earn extra income in their free time during the summer break. However, when hiring minors, employers must pay extra attention in certain areas of employment. This is especially true in the agriculture industry, where the minimum age to work in Washington is only 12 to 13 years old.

What Do You Need to Hire a Minor for the Summer?

  • Current Minor Work Permit issued through the Washington Department of Revenue
  • Proof of Age document
  • Completed Department of Labor and Industries’ Parent Authorization for Summer Work form

To protect the next generation of workers, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (LNI) has outlined rules for employing minors to keep them safe during the workday. They have limited work hours, specific meal and rest break requirements, and restrictions on what machinery they can operate onsite.

What are the Hours They Can Work During Summer Break?

Minors who are 12 to 15 years of age can work up to eight hours a day and six days a week, but their total working time per week must not exceed 40 hours. Working hours must be limited to 5am to 9pm.

Minors who are 16 to 17 years of age can work up to 10 hours a day and six days a week, but their total working time per week must not exceed 50 hours.  For mechanical harvest of peas, wheat and hay, this age group can work up to 60 hours per week but must follow all other limitations. Working hours must be limited to 5am to 10pm.

These restrictions do not apply to minors working on their family farm. LNI states there is a “Family Farm Exemption – child labor rules for age, wages, prohibited duties, and hours do not apply to immediate family members of farm owners working on the family farm.”

What are the Required Wages?

Those under 16 years old must be paid at least of 85% of the current minimum wage. Those 16 to 17 years of age must be paid at least the current minimum wage.

Should I pay immediate family members?

There are potentially some great tax advantages for paying your children from your farm.

  • First, children can earn up to a certain threshold per year (2023: $13,850) without having the file taxes. If it was their only source of wages, a child could earn this year $13,850 and pay no income tax while the farm would receive a tax deduction for this amount.  This provides a great opportunity for income tax savings as well as other planning opportunities.
  • Second, children under 18 are exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare tax on their wages if they work on their family farm. Children under 21 are exempt from paying Federal unemployment tax on their wages from a family farm.
  • To qualify for the Social Security & Medicare exemption, a child must work on a farm or business owned solely by their parents. Working for a farm partnership with non-parental owners (even if their parents are one of the owners) or a farm corporation (even if their parent is a stockholder) would not qualify the child for this exemption. There is still beneficial income tax treatment as discussed in the first bullet point.

What are Their Meal and Rest Break Requirements?

Meal and rest break requirements also depend on their specific age.

Rest Break Requirements:

  • Under 16 years old: At least 10 minutes for every two hours worked, and they cannot work more than two hours without a meal or rest break.
  • 16 to 17 years old: As close to the midpoint of a work period as possible, and they cannot work more than three hours without a rest break.

Meal Break Requirements:

  • Under 16 years old: Must be given a meal break if working more than four hours.
  • 16 to 17 years old: A minimum of 30 minutes if they’re working at least a five-hour shift, and the break cannot be later than the end of their third hour.

Adhering to these rules will ensure a great summer experience for your employed minors! If you have questions on how to get started, we are always available to help.


Sources: Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. (n.d.). How to hire minors:

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Rachel Aguilar

Rachel Aguilar

HR Consulting Services Senior Associate

Rachel Aguilar joined Larson Gross in 2021. She specializes in HR Services and has in-depth knowledge of employment law, benefits, employee engagement, and recruiting.