Employment of Children

What age can a child be employed?

Part-time Work

The youngest age a child can work part-time is generally 14 (although some local authority bye laws allow 13 year olds to be employed in this way), unless the work involves taking part in a public performance.  This includes work related to:

  • television/film productions;
  • theatre; and

Children working in these areas will need a performance licence to be issued by the local authority in the area where they live.

Full-time Work

Children can only start full-time work after they have reached the minimum school leaving age. They can then work up to a maximum of 40 hours a week provided they comply with their country’s regulations.  School leaving age in each country of the UK varies slightly (see below):


You can leave school on the last Friday in June if you’ll be 16 by the end of the summer holidays.

You must then do one of the following until you’re 18:

  • stay in full-time education, for example at a college
  • start an apprenticeship or traineeship
  • spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training


If you turn 16 between 1 March and 30 September you can leave school after 31 May of that year.

If you turn 16 between 1 October and the end of February you can leave at the start of the Christmas holidays in that school year.


You can leave school on the last Friday in June, as long as you’ll be 16 by the end of that school year’s summer holidays.

Northern Ireland

If you turn 16 during the school year (between 1 September and 1 July) you can leave school after 30 June.

If you turn 16 between 2 July and 31 August you can’t leave school until 30 June the following year.


School-aged children are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage. However, young workers aged 16 to 17 and above minimum school leaving age are entitled to the Under-18 National Minimum Wage.

The Performance Licence

Performance licences are issued by the local authority where the relevant child lives.  A licence applicant is responsible for agreeing arrangements with the child’s head teacher before the application is made and providing a report from the child’s head teacher to confirm that the child’s education won’t suffer if they carry out work in relation to the particular performance.   The authority may also decide to speak directly to the head teacher in respect of this.

Performance licences can be applied for online using the following link:-



A child taking part in a performance has to have a chaperone with them. Chaperones are licensed by the local authority and are required to ensure the health, comfort, kind treatment and moral welfare of the children in their care.  More information in relation to chaperones is available at the following link:-


Restrictions on child employment

Special restrictions apply during term times and school holiday times:

Term time rules

During term time, children can only work a maximum of 12 hours a week. This includes:

  • a maximum of 2 hours on school days and Sundays; and
  • a maximum of 5 hours on Saturdays for 13 to 14-year-olds, or 8 hours for 15 to 16-year-olds

In addition, children are not allowed to work:

  • without an employment permit issued by the education department of the local authority, if this is required by local bye laws;
  • in places like a factory or industrial site;
  • during school hours;
  • before 7am or after 7pm;
  • for more than one hour before school (unless local bye laws allow it);
  • for more than 4 hours without taking a break of at least 1 hour;
  • in most jobs in pubs and betting shops and those prohibited in local bye laws;
  • in any work that may be harmful to their health, well-being or education;
  • without having a 2 week break from any work during the school holidays in each calendar year.

School holiday rules

During school holidays 13 to 14-year-olds are only allowed to work a maximum of 25 hours a week. This includes:

  • a maximum of 5 hours on weekdays and Saturdays; and
  • a maximum of 2 hours on Sunday.

During school holidays 15 to 16-year-olds can only work a maximum of 35 hours a week. This includes:

  • a maximum of 8 hours on weekdays and Saturdays;
  • a maximum of 2 hours on Sunday.

Local bye laws may also have other restrictions on working hours, conditions of work and the type of employment and you should contact your local council’s education department or education welfare service for more information using the following link:-