Employment rights for young people
If you're under 18 and thinking of getting a job or are already working, there are certain restrictions on what work you can do, where you can do it and for how long each week.
What age you can get a job
Generally, if you’re under 13, you can only get a job in special circumstances. Once you reach the age of 13, you can do light work. This means that you can't do any job that may affect your health and safety or interfere with your education. You can, for example, do a paper round.
When you're 14, you can be employed in a wide range of jobs, but there are still some that you're not allowed to do. For example, you can't work in a factory or on a building site. If you're unsure about whether you can work in certain jobs, check with the local education authority.
These restrictions last until you become 16 and are over compulsory school age, when you then become classed as a young worker meaning that you have more choice in the jobs you can do. If you're 18 or over, you get the same work rights as adults.
There are rules about 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 and for five hours on Saturdays
- during a school holiday you can work for up to five hours on a week day or a Saturday and no more than two hours on a Sunday
- you cannot work before 7.00 am or after 7.00 pm
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 seven hours on Saturdays or during the school holidays.
16 and 17 year olds
If you are over compulsory school age, and you're 16 or 17, the law refers to you as a young worker. There are fewer restrictions on when you can work and for how long, but there are still some rules.
You'll only be able to work for eight hours every day, or a total of 40 hours over the course of a week. You can't usually work an overnight shift, but there are some exceptional circumstances where you can.
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 'light work', so you'll be allowed to work in places like a busy shop, restaurant kitchen or as a waiter or waitress.
The National 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.
Time off and holidays
If you are over compulsory school age, you have the right to at least 5.6 weeks' paid annual leave, calculated on a pro-rata basis. 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 may 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 can help you find a new job quicker, earn more money and increase your career prospects in the future.
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 any hazards that you may come across during your job and the right ways to do your job safely.
You also have health and safety responsibilities as an employee.
- 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 are not wearing any clothing or jewellery that is unsuitable for the work you are doing
- reporting any accidents or injuries to your manager
- Employees' health and safety responsibilities