Employing children

07 June 2007
Employing children


With the school holidays coming up, I'm considering taking on some additional help by recruiting a young person to work for us. What do I need to think about?

The law

At present, in England, compulsory school age ends on the last Friday in June of the school year in which the child has their 16th birthday. Until a child is over such age, there are strict rules governing their employment to prevent them being exploited by unscrupulous employers.

No child under the age of 14 should be employed at all, whether paid or not. If a child is 14 or older, then, until such time as they exceed compulsory school age, the law is as follows:

A child should only be employed to undertake light work, which, having regard to the tasks involved and the conditions in which it is performed, is work that is not likely to be harmful to the child's safety, health, development, attendance at school or participation in work experience.

Employers who want to employ a child must obtain a permit from their local authority. Such permits must usually be signed by the employer and a parent and, in some cases, the child's school. Each local authority also has the power to impose extra rules, known as bylaws, which must be followed.

There are also strict rules on working time. In general, no child should be employed:

  • Before the close of school hours on any school day

  • Before 7am or after 7pm on any day

  • For more than two hours on any school day

  • For more than 12 hours in any week in which they are required to attend school

  • For more than two hours on any Sunday

  • For more than eight hours (or five hours if under age 15) on any day, other than Sunday, in which they are not required to attend school

  • For more than 35 hours (or 25 hours if under age 15) in any week in which they are not required to attend school

  • For more than four hours in any day without a rest break of at least one hour or

  • At any time in a year, unless at that time they have had, or could still have, during a school holiday at least two consecutive weeks without employment.

Expert advice

A health and safety risk assessment must be carried out before the child starts employment. This should assess the risks and suitability of the proposed work, having regard to the child's immaturity and lack of experience. The outcome of the assessment should be disclosed to the child's parents. In addition, there are some prohibitions as to suitable work. For example, a child should not carry out work which is beyond their physical or psychological capacity or which is conducted in conditions of extreme cold or heat, noise or vibration.

Despite the numerous rules regarding a child's employment, there can be advantages, as their employment can be an investment in the future for both the child and the employer.

Check list

To summarise, you must:

  • Never employ a child who is aged 13 or under.

  • Only employ a child to do light work.

  • Obtain any necessary permits from your local authority.

  • Familiarise yourself with and abide by any bylaws issued by your local authority.

  • Carry out an appropriate risk assessment and disclose the results to the child's parents.

  • Consider whether the terms and conditions of employment, including working time, are lawful.


If the law regarding child employment is breached, an employer could face a fine of up to £1,000 or even, in some cases, imprisonment.


Katee Dias, employment solicitor, Goodman Derrick, 020 7404 0606, kdias@gdlaw.co.uk


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