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What is the Legal Minimum Working Age in the UK?

By Principal Lawyer, Business

You may be looking at employing young people in your business but you must make sure that you adhere to the law when it comes to hiring those under 18.

Children under 16 are not allowed to work full time but you can employ them from the age of 13 in a part time role, for example to deliver newspapers in the morning, or help in a hair salon on a Saturday.

Children can only work full time once they reach the minimum school leaving age, and then can work up to a maximum of 40 hours per week. Once they reach 18 adult employment rights and rules apply. In England and Wales, school leaving age depends on when the child is born. They can leave school on the last Friday in June as long as they will be 16 by the end of that year’s summer holidays.

How Much Should I Pay?

School aged children aren’t entitled to the National Minimum wage and they don’t pay National Insurance. This means that you don’t have to include them on your payroll. It is up to you what you pay someone under 16.

Once someone reaches 16 they are entitled to at least £3.79 per hour (accurate as of June 2015). If you’re a registered employer you will need to record and report their pay as part of your payroll. If they earn more than £112 a week you will need to do other regular PAYE tasks such as making deductions, and be a registered employer.

Can I Employ Someone Under 13?

If a child is under 13, they can be employed in a performance role, for example, acting or modelling work. The local council issue performance licences after they have spoken to the headteacher of the child’s school to ensure that their school work won’t suffer. The producer of the performance has to apply for the licence, not the parent or school.

Are There Any Restrictions to Employing a Young Person?

There are several restrictions when it comes to employing children, so you will need to weigh up the pros and cons before deciding on doing so. For example, children are not allowed to work:

• without an employment permit. This is issued by the education department of the local council;

• in places such as industrial sites or factories;

• during school hours;

• before 7am or after 7pm;

• for more than one hour before school starts;

• for more than 4 hours without a break of at least an hour;

• in most jobs in pubs and betting shops;

• any work that may be harmful to their education, health or wellbeing;

• without having a 2 week break from any work during the school holidays.

How Many Hours Can a Child Work in a Week?

In term time you can only employ a child for a maximum of 12 hours a week. This includes a maximum of 2 hours on a school day and Sunday, and a maximum of 5 hours on Saturdays for 13-14 year olds, or 8 hours for 15-16 year olds.

During the school holidays 13-14 year olds can only 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 a Sunday. 15-16 year old can work a maximum of 35 hours a week during the holidays, including a maximum of 8 hours on weekdays and Saturdays, and a maximum of 2 hours on a Sunday.

Some local councils have their own rules and bylaws regarding child employment so it’s always best to contact them for more information.

No matter what, it’s important to get it right first time when employing young people. It is advisable to seek legal advice if you wish to employ children as the rules and regulations are very different. Slater and Gordon Lawyers are experts in Employment for Businesses. Call us on freephone 0800 916 9060 or you can contact us online and we will call you.

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