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Child Employment Laws UK

Legislation and child employment laws restrict working teenagers under 18. Check what jobs young workers can do, where they can do it, and for how many hours each week.

Minimum and Legal Age a Child Can Work

Employment rights for young workers (under 18) vary. The minimum ages children can work depends on whether the job is part-time or full time.

Part Time Work

As a rule, children need to be at least thirteen (13) years old before they can work or start any kind of job. Even so, thirteen year olds can only perform ‘light’ work or duties.

In general, that means they cannot do a job if it may interfere with their education or affect their health and safety. For example, taking on a paper round would be a typical job allowed for a thirteen year old.

The legislation on children employment changes from the age of fourteen. At 14, you can take up employment in a wider range of jobs, but with some limitations and restrictions.

You can contact your local authority to check or to get further information. They will be able to confirm which jobs are inappropriate or not permitted for children (e.g. on a building site or in a factory).

Even so, some exceptions do apply. Children younger than 13 can have a working involvement in certain areas for special circumstances. They include specialist types of work such as:

  • Concerts or Theatre
  • Filming or Television
  • Modelling or Sporting Events

Note: The child must get a performance licence from the council to work in these distinctive areas (see below).

Full Time Work

Children cannot start any full time work until they reach the minimum school leaving age. Once they do, UK child employment laws allow them to work up to a maximum of forty (40) hours a week.

As an employer, you may need to pay them through the PAYE system once they turn sixteen (16) years old. As a rule, employment contracts and conditions will apply once the worker reaches the adult age of eighteen (18).

Note: The rules for school leavers differ in England to other parts of the United Kingdom. A young person must either continue in part-time education or training until they turn 18.

Pay Rates for Young Workers and Children

School-aged Children (under 16)

The National Minimum Wage does not apply to children until they reach the school leaving age. Children below the age of sixteen (16) do not pay National Insurance contributions.

Employers only need to include them in their payroll if the child’s total income goes over their Personal Allowance.

Paying Children Age 16 and 17

Employment laws class sixteen and seventeen year olds who work as ‘young workers’. As such, they would have entitlement to the NMW rates of £4.81 per hour (as a minimum).

As a registered employer, you would need to record and report their pay as part of running payroll. You would also need to carry out other regular PAYE tasks (e.g. making deductions) if they earn more than £123 per week.

If so, you should collect information from them for PAYE before their next payday. What if they started working for you in the previous tax year? In this case, put their start date as the 5th of April in the payroll software. Thus, you would record their pay only for the current tax year.

Note: You must register as an employer and operate PAYE and payroll if you pay any employee £123 (or more) a week.

Applying for a Child Performance Licence

Children who are below the school leaving age may need to get a ‘child performance licence’ to take part in:

  • Concerts, films, plays, theatrical arrangements, or other public performances if the audience pay to see it. The same rule applies if it will take place on licensed premises.
  • Modelling or any sporting events if the child gets paid for doing taking part.

The responsibility rests with the person in charge of running the particular event. Thus, they must apply for a child performance licence at least 21 days in advance through the local council. Your nearest local authority will confirm whether the child needs the licence.

Supervision for a Performing Child

There is no need for child supervision if they will be with their parent, a school teacher, or a home tutor. If not, an approved chaperone would need to supervise the child. You can contact the council authority to become a licensed chaperone for child performers to get approval.

Note: The rules on paying children and child employment restrictions apply to youngsters in performance roles.

Child Employment Restrictions

Several important restrictions apply as to when and where children can work. As a general rule, children are not allowed to work:

  • Before 7am in the morning or after 7pm in the evening.
  • During the normal hours for schooling children.
  • For more than one (1) hour before school (some local bylaws may allow an exception to this rule).
  • For more than four (4) hours without taking a rest break of at least one (1) hour.
  • In any kind of work that may be harmful to their education, or their general health and well-being.
  • In certain hazardous places where workplace health and safety may be an issue. Typical examples include building sites, factories, or industrial sites.
  • In most types of jobs in a betting shop, public house, and any others prohibited by a local bylaw.
  • Without an employment permit (if local bylaws require it). The education department of the local council issue child employment permits.
  • Without taking a two week break from any type of work during the school holidays in each calendar year.

Note: Other special rules apply during term times and during school holiday times.

Term Time Rules for Working Children

Children can only work a maximum of 12 hours a week during term time, which includes:

  • No more than two (2) hours on school days and Sundays.
  • No more than five (5) hours on Saturdays for 13 to 14-year-olds (8 hours for 15 and 16-year-olds).

School Holiday Rules for Working Children

During the school holiday period, 13 to 14-year-olds can only work a maximum of 25 hours a week. This ruling includes:

  • No more than five (5) hours on weekdays and on Saturdays.
  • No more than two (2) hours on a Sunday.

During the school holiday period, 15 and 16-year-olds can only work a maximum of 35 hours a week. This ruling includes:

  • No more than eight (8) hours on weekdays and on Saturdays.
  • No more than two (2) hours on a Sunday.

Rules and Local Bylaws on Types of Work for Children

As a rule, local bylaws list and restrict the job types that children can and cannot undertake. Thus, no child below school leaving age can do the any of the work if the council have it listed. The same local bylaws may also place further restrictions on working hours and the conditions of work.

Note: The education department or education welfare service at your local council will have further information.

Council Rules on Child Employment Permits

Many of the local councils have extra rules on employing school-aged children. Often, a business must apply for a child employment permit before they do so.

There are risks for businesses who employ a child without a permit. That employer will not have insurance against accidents that may involve the child. You should contact your local council for further information on this issue.

Note: Children who take part in a work experience arranged by their school do not need to get the permit.

Child Employment Legislation and Work Restrictions in United Kingdom