A bill signed by Gov. Chris Sununu lowers the age limit for students to bus tables where alcohol is served from 15 to 14 years old. It also increases the hours most 16- and 17-year-olds can work when they’re in school.

Senate Bill 345, which took effect Friday, was supported by the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association and state Liquor Commission, according to a Senate hearing report.

During testimony this year, the bill’s supporters identified two goals: help labor-starved employers and make child labor laws easier for employers, school administrators, and parents to understand.

Under the old law, a student had to be 15 to clear tables if alcohol was served; now a 14-year-old can do so in addition to helping stock supplies if someone at least 18 years old is present and supervising staff.

The old law set a sliding scale dictating how many hours 16- and 17-year-old students could work during the school year. They were limited to 30 hours a week if they were in school five days a week and up to 48 hours if they were attending school less than that.

“It became too cumbersome,” said Deputy Labor Commissioner Rudolph Ogden.

Now, students ages 16 and 17 can work a maximum of 35 hours a week when school is in session, regardless of how many days they are in classes.

The new legislation also repealed an equally complicated provision that governed night shifts but did not prohibit them. Now, students in that age group can work any shift as long as they do not work more than 35 hours a week while in school.

During the summer and school vacations, 16- and 17-year-olds are still capped at 48 hours of work a week. The new law does not change limits on shifts or hours for 14- and 15-year olds.

This story originally appeared in the N.H. Bulletin.

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