Is Your Child Old Enough To Work?

28/05/2012 16:53 | Updated 22 May 2015
Teen girl working in officeRex

Getting a paper round is typically that 'first job' for most youngsters and can seem the obvious answer if your kids are pestering you for extra pocket money. But while learning to earn their own money, and how to manage it, can be a valuable life lesson it's worth checking the rules first so you don't find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

What age can children work?

They can't work until they are 13; that's unless your child is doing modelling, TV or theatre work, which are some of the specialist professions where younger children are allowed to work. In these cases a 'performance license' has to be issued by the local authority who also liaise with the school to ensure your child's education isn't likely to suffer.

What work can they do?

From 13, teenagers can do 'light' work; that's things like paper rounds, car washing, working in local shops, hairdressers, cafés or restaurants, (although they can't be involved in food preparation). In some areas there may be local bylaws that place further restrictions on either the hours or type of work they can do and you can check this out with your local authority.

How many hours can they work?

• Children can work a maximum two hours a day outside school hours, but not before 7am or after 7pm and only one hour before school.

• During term time children can work up to 12 hours a week. This includes the maximum two hours on school days and on Sundays and up to five hours on Saturdays, or eight hours on Saturdays for 15 to 16-year olds.

• During school holidays this goes up to 25 hours a week for 13 to 14-year-olds; which means they can work up to five hours every day except Sunday when it's a two hour limit.

• For 15 to 16-year-olds the holiday working limit is higher; up to 35 hours a week; with a maximum eight hours a day and up to two hours work on Sundays.

• If they've taken on a regular part-time job there's probably pressure on them to keep it up during school holidays but under child employment regulations they must get a minimum two week break from work during school holidays at least once a year.

Does the minimum wage apply?

No, this doesn't kick in until you're over the school leaving age so there are no set rates for children under 16.

While it's probably unlikely any part time work is going to take your child's earnings beyond their tax free limit of £8,105, (this limit includes any income but also interest on savings), if they do go beyond this limit they'll pay tax just like adults.

Who needs to know if they're working?

It's down to employers to tell the local authority's education department if they're offering work to anyone under the school leaving age. Depending on the local bylaws the local authority may then issue a 'work permit'.

But if we're talking 'work experience', which is arranged through the school, then work permits won't be needed.

And if you run a family business and get your kids to 'help out'; even if the work's not paid, you should still let the local authority know.

Full time work

Working hours are restricted for anyone under the school leaving age but this doesn't automatically mean age 16. The 'compulsory' school age means staying at school 'until the last Friday in June within the academic year of your child's 16th birthday'. Beyond this date teenagers can apply for their national insurance number and work full time.

For more information call your local council or speak to your local Education Welfare Service.


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