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Article: Young Workers


This article looks at the rules that affect you if you're aged under 16 and want to do a part-time job. These include the kinds of work you can do, and where and when you can work.

Thinking about a job?

If you're aged under 16 and want to earn some extra money, you need to know about the rules that control things like:

  • what kind of work you can do
  • how long you can work for
  • health and safety at work

This article doesn't cover work experience organised through your school.

Are you old enough?

It's generally against the law for anyone to give a job to a child under 13. There are some exceptions, such as acting performances where the part can only be taken by a child of a specific age.

If you're aged 13-16, you can do part-time work. However, there are restrictions on when you can work and what types of work you can do. Generally, the law allows you to work as long as your education, health and development are not put at risk.

Which kind of work can you do?

This depends on your age. If you're 13, you're only allowed to do work that the local authority has decided is suitable. This usually includes:

  • light farm work
  • newspaper delivery
  • work in a shop, cafe, hair salon or office
  • domestic work in a hotel
  • work in riding stables
  • car washing by hand in a private residential setting

If you're 14 or over, you can only do light work that is not prohibited by the local authority. The work you are not allowed to do usually includes:

  • working in a nightclub, cinema, or a place with gambling machines
  • working in a commercial kitchen
  • delivering milk or fuel oils
  • selling or delivering alcohol
  • rubbish collection
  • any work where you would be exposed to 'adult material'
  • selling things over the telephone (telesales)
  • working at dangerous heights (above three metres from the ground)
  • exposure to dangerous chemicals
  • selling, canvassing (such as persuading people to vote for a certain party) or collecting money door to door
  • working in a slaughter house or preparing meat for sale

There are separate rules about children taking part in public performances. These vary depending on how old you are, but cover things like:

  • the maximum number of performances you can do in a week
  • the earliest and latest times you can perform
  • the length of time you can perform for, and the breaks you're entitled to
  • your welfare, such as your education and where you would stay if you were in a long-running performance away from home

In England, there's no minimum age you have to be before you can baby-sit. However, many organisations recommend that you should be at least 16.

When can you do it?

When you can work depends on whether it is a school day, the weekend or during the holidays. Your age is also important.

  • on a school day, you can't work before the end of school hours (although some by-laws allow you to work for up to one hour before school)
  • on a school day, you can only do paid work for up to two hours in total
  • if you're under 15, you can do up to five hours' paid work on a Saturday
  • if you're 15 or older, you can do up to eight hours' paid work on a Saturday
  • on a Sunday, you can only do two hours' paid work, whatever your age (up to 16)
  • if you are under 15, you can do up to five hours' work a day in the school holidays, up to a total of 25 hours a week
  • if you are 15 or older, you can do up to eight hours' work a day in the holidays, up to a total of 35 hours a week

You must not work for more than four hours without taking a break of at least one hour.

Your health and safety

Wherever you work, your employer must carry out regular checks to make sure there is no risk to your health and safety because of things such as:

  • the layout of the workplace
  • exposure to dangerous chemicals
  • the use of machinery and equipment in your work

They must also give you health and safety training.

Work permits

If you find yourself a part-time job, your employer must register you with the local authority within one week of taking you on. The employer completes the form, which you must then take to be signed and sent off by one of your parents or a guardian. You mustn't fill in any part of it.

The local authority will then check that the terms of employment meet all laws and regulations and that there is no risk to your health, safety or welfare. When they are satisfied, they will issue you with a work permit.

If at any time the local authority decides that the employer is breaking the law, the company would have to pay a fine, and it is likely you'd be stopped from working there.

If you think that your health and safety is at risk because of the nature of your job, tell a parent or other adult who can get in touch with the local authority. They can then look into it further.

Further Information

Young Workers

Publisher: Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)


Child Employment - Guide

UK government services and information


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