Employment for young persons

At what age am I allowed to work?

The general rule if you are under school leaving age (16) is that you can get a part-time job from the age of 14. However, you can only be employed in what is considered ‘light work’. This means that you cannot do any job that can affect your health and safety or may get in the way of your education.

Examples of work which you can do are:

  • Delivering newspapers and leaflets
  • Shop work, including shelf stacking
  • Office work
  • Hairdressing
  • Working in a café or restaurant, but not in the kitchen
  • Work in hotels and other places offering accommodation.

Employing young people under the age of 14 is possible in certain circumstances. However, this will often depend on the particular by-laws of the Local Authority where you live so you should check with your local council.

You can start full-time employment as soon as you don’t have to attend school any more, which is on the last Friday in June of the year that you reach 16 years old. However, there is now a requirement to continue to participate in education and training up until the age of 18. If you start a full time job at 16 you will still need to complete at least 280 guided learning hours a year in education or training. For more information on how to do this you should check with your local council.

What hours am I allowed to work?

The following are the basic rules which govern the working hours of young persons:

During school term-time

Maximum hours per week Maximum hours on schooldays or Sundays Maximum hours on Saturdays
13 – 14 year olds 12 2 5
15 – 16 year olds 12 2 8

During school holidays

Maximum hours per week Maximum hours on weekdays or Saturdays Maximum hours on Sundays
13 – 14 year olds 25 5 2
15 – 16 year olds 35 8 2

Other general rules for 13 – 16 year olds are:

  • You cannot work before 7am and after 7pm.
  • You must have a break from work of at least 2 weeks a year.
  • You must have a rest break of 1 hour for every 4 hours worked.

If you are over school leaving age but under 18 you must not work more than 8 hours a day or more than 40 hours a week. You cannot usually work between 10pm and 6am unless you work in certain professions.

What is the minimum wage for young people?

There are different rates of National Minimum Wage depending on your age and whether you are an apprentice. For further information please go here.

If you are of compulsory school age (aged 5 – 16) then you are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage. Children under 16 do not pay National Insurance.

If my employer is making me work long hours, or not paying me enough, what can I do?

If you think that you are being paid under the National Minimum Wage you should first speak with your employer to see if they can change this. If they continue to pay you less than the minimum wage you should ask to see their National Minimum Wage Records (you must make a formal request for these records in a letter). Your employer cannot refuse to show you these records.

You should take a copy of these records and then call the Pay and Work Rights Helpline. For information on how to contact the Pay and Work Rights Helpline, go here.