Work and school

At what age can I…


You can baby-sit for a child at any age, although you should check with your parents whether it is suitable for you do so. Coram Children’s Legal Centre recommends 16 as the minimum age for baby-sitting.

age-gotoschool120Going to school

The compulsory school age is 5.

s.8(2) Education Act 1996 and Education (Start of Compulsory School Age) Order 1998

This means that at 5 your parents must make sure that you are in full-time education at school or elsewhere, for example, at home.

s.7 Education
Act 1996

For more information, see: When do I have to go to school?

age-leaveschool120Leaving school

You can leave school on the last Friday of June if you are 16 by that date, or you will reach the age of 16 during the summer holidays before the beginning of the next school year.

s.8(3) Education Act 1996, Education (School Leaving Date) Orders 1997

However, although you are not necessarily required to attend school, you will have to remain in education, employment or training until the age of 18.

s.2 Learning and Skills Act 2000.
96. s.63A Employment Rights Act 1996 and Right to Time Off for Study or Training Regulations 2001

For more information, see When can I leave school?

You are entitled to full-time education up until the age of 19.

s.2 Learning and Skills Act 2000


You can get a part-time job at 14 involving ‘light work’ but there are strict rules.

You can work full-time if you have left school at 16, but there are some restrictions on the work you can do. For example, you cannot work in a betting shop or in a bar during opening hours.

s.558 Education Act 1996.

Your employer must pay you the National Minimum Wage set for 16 and 17- year olds. The National Minimum Wage changes every year, but you can find the current level on HM Revenue and Customs website.

At 18 your employer must pay you the national minimum wage set for 18-year-olds. This changes annually – you can find out what the current minimum wage is on HM Revenue and Customs website.

For more information, see Employment for Young Persons.

age-perform120Public Performances

Your parents can be granted a justices’ license which will let you take part in public performances abroad at 14. This can include singing, playing, performing, being exhibited for profit, and taking part in a sport or working as a model.

s.25 Children and Young Persons Act 1933

You can take part in public performances without a local authority licence at 16.

s.37 Children and Young Persons Act 1963

At 18 you can take part in an exhibition or performance of hypnotism.

s.3 Hypnotism Act 1952

age-dangerous_1120Dangerous Performances

You can be trained to take part in dangerous performances at 12 as long as the local authority gives you a licence.

 s.24 Children and Young Persons Act 1933

age-army120Armed Forces

You can apply to the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force at 15 years and 9 months, but you will not be able to serve until you are 16.

At 16 you may join the Army, the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Marines with the consent of your parents or guardian.

Regulation 9 Army Terms of Service Regulations 2007

At 17 you can join the Royal Navy or the Royal Marines as an officer with parental consent, the Royal Air Force at 17 years and 6 months, and the Army at 17 years and 9 months.

At 17 you can join the Royal Marines Reserve and the Territorial Army with parental consent.

At 18 you can join the armed forces and all volunteer reserves (part-time armed forces) without parental consent.

s.9 Armed Forces Act 1966 to be repealed and replaced by s.328 Armed Forces Act 2006 on such a day as the Secretary of State appoints.

age-socialsec120Social Security

You can get a National Insurance Number at 16.

At 16 you may receive income support in certain circumstances, for example, if you are still in full-time education at school or college and are forced to live away from your parents.

S.124 Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 and Schedule 1B Income Support (General) Regulations 1987

At 16 you may also be able to obtain  jobseeker’s allowance if you are registered for training but you are not receiving any, and you are also suffering severe hardship.

S.16 Jobseekers Act 1995.

If you are an eligible child or a relevant child (you have been looked-after by the local authority for at least 13 weeks from the age of 14, whether or not you are still looked-after by the local authority), you are not allowed to claim income support, housing benefit or jobseeker’s allowance at 16, but you can seek financial aid from the Local Authority.

S.6 Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000

At 16 you may be assessed to pay child support if you are an absent parent

s5 Child Support (Maintenance Calculation and Special Cases) Regulations 2000

age-fire120Fire Service

You can apply to certain fire brigades at 17 years and 10 months old.

You can join the fire service at 18 years old.

Regulation 5 of the Fire Services (Appointments and Promotion) Regulations 1978 as revoked by the Fire Services (Appointments and Promotion)(England and Wales) Regulations 2004, which lapsed on the repeal of the Fire Services Act 2004


At 18 you can apply to join and can be appointed to the police service.

The Police (Minimum Age for Appointment) Regulations 2006

age-vote120Political Participation

At 18 you can vote in general and local elections.

s.1 Representation of the People Act 2000

At 18 you can become a Member of Parliament

s.17 Electoral Administration Act 2006

At 18 you can become a local councilor or a mayor.

s.79(1) Local Government Act 1972 as substituted by s.17 Electoral Administration Act 2006