The purpose of this factsheet is to guide employers of children and young people. Children and young people may be at risk in the workplace because they lack experience and trained judgement.
Most local councils say that businesses intending to employ school-aged children must apply for a child employment permit before they can be employed. If a child is working without a child employment permit, there’s a risk that the employer will not be insured against accidents involving the child.
When employing children you are governed by the local authority and the Byelaws on the Employment of Children 1998. In addition when employing young persons you are governed by the Working Time Regulations 1998.
Child (children): a person(s) who is not yet over compulsory school age i.e. not 16 or over. A person is of ‘compulsory school age’ until the end of the academic year of their 16th birthday. The minimum age for employment of school age children is 13 years.
Young Person: A person who is under 18 but over school leaving age is classed as a young person. Young people have different employment rights to children. A young person may be aged 15 if they have finished compulsory schooling i.e. their 16th birthday falls between the last Friday of June and 1 September.
Employment: includes assistance in any trade or occupation which is carried out for profit, whether or not the individual is paid for providing that assistance.
Light work: work which, because of the inherent nature of the tasks and conditions, is not harmful to the health, safety or development of the child worker and will not be harmful to their attendance at school or their capacity to benefit from their education.
When employing children you are governed by the Byelaws on the Employment of Children 1998 (‘the byelaws’). No child can be employed without a work permit (issued by your local authority) see section 3.4 below.
The minimum wage comes in to force at the age of 18 and therefore does not apply to child workers. In light of this a child worker’s wages must be agreed between the employer and the child’s parents/guardians.
Types of work children are permitted to undertake
Children under the age of 13 are not permitted to carry out any work at all and therefore cannot be employed in PA or any other type of work.
Under the byelaws, children aged 13 cannot be employed in personal assistant type work because they can only be employed in specified occupations e.g. shop work and newspaper delivery.
Once a child is 14 they can do any work that can be defined as ‘light work’ under the definition in section two (above) this may include some types of personal assistant work. However no child may be employed in any out of doors work (including gardening) unless wearing suitable clothes and shoes and must never collect money unless under the direct supervision of an adult.
Time and hours of work
(a) 13 and 14 year olds
Throughout the year:
- a child cannot work before 7:00am or after 7:00pm on any day of the week
During term time:
- a child can only work for two hours on weekdays and Sundays (a child cannot work for more than 12 hours total per week)
- a child can only work for five hours on Saturdays
- a child cannot work for more than one hour before school
- during school holidays a child can work for up to five hours on a week day or a Saturday (not more than 25 hours per week total).
- during school holidays, a child cannot work for more than two hours on a Sunday
(b) 15 and 16 year olds
If a child is 15 or 16 years old their rights are almost identical to those of 13 and 14 year olds. However, they are allowed to work for up to 8 hours per day on Saturdays or during the school holidays and they are allowed to work a maximum of 35 hours per week during school holidays.
Under the Children (Protection at Work) Regulations 1998 children must:
- be allowed a rest break of one hour in any day where they work for more than four hours
- have at least a two week period in every year when they are not at school and do not do any work
A child cannot be employed without an employment (work) permit in West Sussex, Croydon and Portsmouth. An application for an employment permit must be made by the employer to their local authority within seven days of the child starting work with them.
In order to obtain an employment permit the employer will need to have carried out an appropriate risk assessment in accordance with health and safety legislation and the child’s parents/guardians will need to sign the application to confirm that their child is medically fit to carry out the duties involved. An employment permit can be revoked at any time if the byelaws are breached by the employer.
A copy of the employment permit application form can be accessed at:
West Sussex County Council:
For employment permits in Portsmouth you will need to contact the council using the details below.
For further advice on obtaining an employment permit, contact:
Call: WSCC child employment team on 0330 222 8384
Call: 01962 876300/876301
Call: 023 9284 1419
A copy of the employment permit application form can be accessed at: https://www.croydon.gov.uk/business-licences-and-tenders/licences-permits-and-registrations/apply/children-young-people-employment-permits/child-employment-permit
If you require further advice on obtaining an employment permit you should:
Call: Child Employment and Entertainment Officer on 020 8726 6165.
A copy of the employment permit application form can be accessed at: https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/children-families/young-people/employment-education-training/work
Please note work permits are not required for babysitting whether it is paid or unpaid. See section 5 below for further advice.
Please note that you are not able to request a Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) check unless your young worker is aged 16 and over.
Employing young people
When employing young people you are governed by the Working Time Regulations 1998 and The Health and Safety (Young Persons) Regulations 1997.
Time and hours of work
- cannot work for more than eight hours per day
- can only work a maximum of 40 hours per week
- must not work between 10:00pm and 6:00am or between 11:00pm and 7:00am (except in certain exceptional circumstances)
Young people must:
- have a 30-minute in-work rest break when working longer than four and a half hours.
Rest breaks must be:
- taken in one block
- taken somewhere in the middle of the work period and not at the end
- spent away from the place where the young person works if they want them to be
Young people must also:
- have 12 hours’ uninterrupted rest between each working day
- have two days’ consecutive rest each week
The general provisions under the Health and Safety (Young Persons) Regulations are that employers are obliged to undertake a health and safety risk assessment prior to a young worker commencing employment to assess the risks to their health and safety, taking into account their inexperience and immaturity, training and guidance provided.
Right to time off for studying and/or training
The right to time off for study or training regulations 1999 apply to employees who are aged 16 and 17, and who have qualifications below that of NVQ level 2. The regulations also apply to employees who are 18 years old and want to complete the study or training they began at 16 or 17.
Young people in this category are entitled to ‘reasonable’ time off to pursue studies for relevant qualifications and to be paid at their normal hourly rate. If their employer stops them taking time off or does not pay them for it, the PA can make a complaint to an employment tribunal.
The tribunal would consider the time needed for study and the effect on the employer’s ‘business’ i.e. the effect on the customer’s level of care. The tribunal can order the employer to pay for the study leave. Employers do not have to pay for the cost of the course itself.
Where you do pay wages during study leave, ask your payroll service to write ‘study leave’ on the payslip. This provides evidence of what the money was for, in case of a dispute.
‘Relevant’ qualifications include:
- 5 A-C grade GCSEs
- NVQ level 2
- BTEC first certificate or diploma
- City & Guilds of London Institute diploma of vocational education at intermediate level
Only those qualifications awarded by approved examining boards/NVQ awarding bodies are accepted.
Please note that a vocational course does not have to be related to the employee’s work in order to be covered. The idea is that the worker’s employment prospects are enhanced, whether with their existing employer or elsewhere.
Paying children and young people
Children under 16
National Minimum Wage rates do not apply to school aged children.
Children under 16 do not pay National Insurance, so you only need to include them on your payroll if their total income is over their Personal Allowance.
Once someone reaches 16
Young workers aged 16 to 17 are entitled to at least £5.28 per hour.
Practical arrangements when employing children and young people
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 state that an employer has to carry out an assessment of the health and safety risks before employing a child (i.e. someone who is not over the compulsory school leaving age) and provide the child’s parents with comprehensive and relevant information on the risks and the protective measures to be carried out by the employer.
It will be necessary to carry out a full written risk assessment before an employment permit can be obtained. For young persons over the school leaving age of 16 but under 18, employers are required to assess their ability to do the job and to carry out an assessment of the risks.
When carrying out this risk assessment the employer should bear in mind the employee’s young age and likely lack of experience. You can use employer template 4.2(c) Employing children and young people.
Induction and training
Induction training is essential when employing children and young people and should cover the following:
- their responsibilities
- who to speak to if they are uncertain or need advice
- what to do if they have an accident
- what to do in an emergency e.g. how to evacuate the building in a fire
- training in using safety equipment, including personal protective equipment. For example, using gloves when assisting you with the toilet.
There is no minimum age at which children can be left on their own, nor does the law specify how old someone must be to babysit. However, if the babysitter is under the age of 16 then the parent remains legally responsible for the child’s safety.
An assessment of whether a babysitter under 16 is responsible enough to care for a younger child must be made by the parents of the child being cared for, on the basis of the maturity and confidence of the babysitter.
Whilst, for example, some 14 year olds will be more than capable of caring for a younger child and would know what to do in an emergency, other children of this age will not have the necessary level of maturity to babysit younger children.
Parents should be aware when making a decision about this, that under the Children and Young Persons Act they can be prosecuted for wilful neglect if they leave a child unsupervised ‘in a manner which is likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health’.
Babysitters over the age of 16 can be charged with a criminal offence if they deliberately assault, ill-treat or abandon a child in their care.
The NSPCC recommends that no one under the age of 16 should be left alone to look after young children and those children under 13 should not be left alone for long periods.
Please note: children do not require an employment permit for babysitting (whether paid or unpaid).