Child employment

Although young people in England must be in part-time education or training until they turn 18, many companies employ children in a part-time capacity or on a casual basis during the school holidays. It's important to understand the rules, particularly when hiring children under 16.

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What are the minimum ages children can work?

Only children who have reached the minimum school leaving age are allowed to work full-time. Subject to variations across the UK, this date falls at the end of the school year once they have turned 16.

In terms of part-time work, the minimum age is 13, unless the child is involved in performance work such as:

Film and television Theatre and concerts Modelling Sporting events Other public performances with a paying audience or which take place on licensed premises

How much do children have to be paid?

Children who have not reached the minimum school leaving age are not entitled to the national minimum wage (NMW). For further information read Minimum wage. Therefore there is no set minimum hourly rate that they have to be paid. Furthermore, they do not pay National Insurance contributions, so do not have to be included on the payroll unless they earn in excess of the personal allowance.

Young people who have reached the minimum school leaving age are entitled to the relevant rate of the NMW.

Do children require performance licences and supervision?

Children who have not reached the minimum school leaving wage may need a performance licence if they are undertaking performance work (eg films, theatre and modelling). The person in charge of the event or performance will need to apply for a child performance licence with the local council at least 21 days before it takes place.

Furthermore, unless the child will be accompanied by their parent, school teacher or home tutor at the event, they will need to be supervised by a council approved chaperone.

Is a child employment permit required?

Businesses who want to employ young people who have not reached the minimum school leaving age will generally need to apply for a child employment permit from their local council prior to hiring the child - unless this is work experience arranged by the school.

What are the restrictions on child employment?

There are various restrictions on the employment of children who have not reached the minimum school leaving age. For example, they are not allowed to work:

  • During school hours or before 7am or after 7pm
  • For more than four hours continuously without taking at least a one hour break
  • In places such as factories, industrial sites, pubs and betting shops

There are more specific rules relating to term-time and school holidays. Furthermore, there are certain council specific by-laws which must be complied with - so it's a good idea to check with the local council's education department or education welfare service. Alternatively, you should Ask a lawyer.

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