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Young people at work

Law regarding work carried out by people aged under 18 years.

General rule

Children can work part-time from the age of 13 but must remain in full-time education until the last Friday in June in the school year that they reach 16. From 16 to 18 years young people must be in full or part-time education or training.

Hours worked

Under 16 years, a child must not work:

  • in school hours on any school day
  • for more than 1 hour before school (unless local bylaws apply)
  • more than 2 hours in total on any school day or more than 12 hours in any week when required to attend school
  • more than 2 hours on a Sunday
  • more than 8 hours (5 hours if under 15 years) on any day which is not a school day or a Sunday
  • before 7 am or after 7pm
  • more than 35 hours a week (25 hours if under 15 years) in any week when not required to attend school
  • more than 4 hours in a day without a 1 hour break
  • at any time if during the 12 months beginning 1 January working means that the child has not had 2 uninterrupted weeks holiday from school

Between 16 and 18 years a young person:

  • must not work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week
  • must have 12 hours uninterrupted rest within any 24 hour period in which they work
  • must have 48 hours uninterrupted rest every week
  • must have a rest break of at least 30 minutes in any shift of 4 hours or more
  • must not work between midnight and 4am
  • is usually not allowed to work between 10pm and 7am

Exceptions to working between 10pm and 7am include being employed in agriculture, retail trading, postal or newspaper delivery, catering business, hotel, pub, restaurant or bakery.

There is also an exception if night time working is needed to maintain continuity of service or production or to respond to a sudden increase in demand for services or products and there are no appropriate adult workers available. In these cases, the young person must be supervised, allowed a period of rest as compensation and doing the work will not affect their education or training.

Types of work

Under 16 years a person cannot be employed in a job:

  • in a factory or in construction work
  • in transport
  • in a mine
  • on a registered merchant ship

Children under 14 are only allowed to work in sport, advertising, or film (in which case the employer must have a performance permit), odd jobs for family or neighbours, or babysitting. However, local bylaws may differ.

Between 16 and 18 years a person cannot be employed in a job:

  • which they are not physically or mentally capable of doing
  • where they are brought into contact with chemical agents, toxic materials or radiation
  • which involves a health risk because of extreme cold, heat or vibration


  • it is necessary for their training
  • an experienced person is supervising and
  • where any risk is reduced to the lowest level reasonable

A 16 or 17 year old can sell alcohol in a bar or restaurant unsupervised provided it is sold to be drunk with a table meal and is served in a part of the premises used only for that purpose. Under 18s can also sell alcohol in a bar provided the sale is specifically approved by a responsible person (licensee or manager).

A person under 18 can only join the armed forces with parental consent.

Wages and holidays

Under 16 years the national minimum wage does not apply and there is no paid holiday entitlement.

Over the age of 16 a person is entitled to the national minimum wage (currently £4.05 per hour for under 18s or £3.50 for apprentices) unless on an internship as part of a higher education sandwich course or undertaking work shadowing.

Between 16 and 18 the young person is entitled to paid holiday at the normal rate (5.6 weeks per year adjusted for the hours worked).