Child Employment

Legal references on this page apply to England.

Children in Employment


Many local authorities have additional byelaws regulating the work of children. If you/your children are considering working, it is recommended that you contact your local authority who will be able to give you advice relevant to your area. The EC Directive on Protection of Young People at Work" (94/33/EC) states that in general children may not be employed until they are aged at least 15. This is reduced to 14 for light work and there are further notable exceptions "for the purposes of performance in cultural, artistic, sports or advertising activities". See In some LAs the same person or department deals with employment licences as with elective home education.

What counts as Employment? Unpaid Work In Charity Shop/Unpaid Work At Youth Club?

As well as employment in its normal meaning, the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 states that a person who assists in a trade or occupation carried on for profit is considered as employed even though he or she may receive no payment. So the rules in the Children and Young Persons Act will apply where, for example, children help their parents in a shop without receiving any payment.

What is "light work"?

A child under the school leaving age may only be employed to do 'light work'. This is: "work which on account of the inherent nature of the tasks which it involves and the particular conditions under which they are performed is not likely to be harmful to the health, safety or development of children and is not such as to be harmful to their attendance at school or to their participation in work experience, or their capacity to benefit from the instruction received or the experience gained". In most areas, "light work" is understood to mean agricultural or horticultural work, delivery of newspapers etc, shop work, hairdressing salons, in a cafe or restaurant, in riding stables and domestic work in hotels. Local bye-laws should always be checked for variations, as should the list of prohibited occupations.

Children's Work Permits

The model byelaws require permits for employment of children under the school leaving age and many authorities have made byelaws which follow the model, so again employers need to check with the local authority where the employment is to take place whether there is a permit system in their byelaws.

Link Reference

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  1. Children and Young Persons Act 1933