Advice Hub

June 13, 2011

Employment rights for young people

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Written by: Kyle Raffo
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Are you thinking of getting a job? Are you already in work? If you are employed and under 18, there are certain restrictions on what work you can actually do, where you can do it and for how long each week.

Are you old enough to have a job?

If you’re under 13, you cannot legally be employed, although you can take part in paid sport or entertainment with permission from your local authority.  Once you reach the age of 13, you may be allowed to be employed to do ’light work’. This is work which is not likely to affect your health, safety or education. Things you can do may include shop work or taking on a paper round.

Check with the local authority where your place of work would be to see what restrictions they have about the employment of 13 year olds.

When you’re 14, you can be employed in a wide range of jobs, but there are still some that you can’t do. For example you may not work in factories or on a building site. If you’re unsure about whether you can work in certain jobs, check on these with the local authority.

These restrictions last until you become 16 and have left school, when you become classed as a young worker. This means that you’ll have more choice in the jobs you can do. If you are 18 or over, you get the same work rights as adults.

Working hours

There are rules that regulate what times of the day you can work and for how long. These are different depending on your age.

14 year olds
There are a lot of rules that control working hours of children, but the basic ones are:

  • during term time, you can only work for two hours on weekdays and Sundays
  • during term time, you can only work for five hours on Saturdays
  • during a school holiday, you can work for up to five hours on a week day or a Saturday
  • during a school holiday, you can’t work for more than two hours on a Sunday
  • you cannot work before 7.00 am or after 7.00 pm on any day

15 and 16 year olds
If you’re 15 or 16 and are working while you’re still at school, your rights are almost identical to those of 14 year olds. However, you are allowed to work for up to eight hours on Saturdays or during the school holidays.

16 and 17 year olds
If you’re no longer at school and you’re 16 or 17, the law refers to you as a ‘young worker’. Because you will no longer be at school, there are fewer restrictions on when you can work and for how long, but there are still some rules.

Because you’ve reached school leaving age, you may find that employers may be more willing to offer you part-time or full-time employment. You’re also not limited to just ‘light work’, so you’ll be allowed to work in places like a busy shop, restaurant kitchen or as a waiter or waitress.

The minimum wage

You become eligible for the National Minimum Wage (NMW) when you’re older than school leaving age. The rate of NMW will then depend on your exact age.

There isn’t a National Minimum Wage for people under 16 who are younger than the school leaving age.

The National Minimum Wage rate changed on 1 October, so make sure you check that you’re getting paid the right amount.

Time off and holidays

If you are working full time, you have the right to at least 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave. This works out to be 28 days in a year if you work five days per week. Some employers may offer more as part of your employment contract.

If your company offers little or no training, you can also get time off to work and study if you decide to take any further education courses.

If you get made redundant

If you’re 16 or 17 and have recently lost your job, your best option is to do some further learning or training. Gaining additional skills and qualifications could help you find a new job more quickly, earn more money and increase your career prospects in the future.

Local authorities can provide support for young people to participate in education or training. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to claim benefits if you choose to look for another job.

Health and safety at work

All employers have a responsibility to make sure that their employees’ health and safety are protected at work.

This means that you should expect thorough training that shows you the right way to do your job safely.

You also have health and safety responsibilities as an employee. These include:

  • making sure you use the proper methods to carry out tasks, like lifting heavy boxes or using sharp knives
  • not putting anyone else at risk of injury
  • making sure you’re not wearing any clothing or jewellery that is unsuitable for the work you’re doing
  • reporting any accidents or injuries to your manager


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