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HR FAQ – can I employ someone under 16?

School holidays are coming.  It’s the time when teenagers start thinking about getting part time jobs, or perhaps when their parents start “encouraging” them to get summer jobs. The teenager gets valuable work experience and can show on their CV that they’ve been working during the holidays, ideally in a field or area they’d like to work in in the future.

However, employers need to exercise care before agreeing to take on someone under the age of 16, even if they think they’re doing it as a favour to the person or to their parents.  There are some key considerations to be aware of.

 Under 13s

A child under 13 is not legally allowed to be employed but may take part in paid sport or entertainment with permission from their local authority.

 Under 14s

A child of 13 may be employed to do “light work” which means work that isn’t likely to affect their health, safety or education.  Most often this can mean working in a shop or doing a paper round.  It’s best to check with the local authority about restrictions which apply to 13 year olds.

 Under 16s

Teenagers aged 14 and 15 can be employed in a range of jobs but there are still some that they cannot legally do, e.g. working on a building site or in a factory.

There are also restrictions on the amount of hours a 14 or 15 year old can work, depending on whether it’s term time or a school holiday.

During term time, they can only work for 2 hours on weekdays and Sundays and for 5 hours on Saturdays up to a maximum of 12 hours in any one week.  During school holidays, they can work for up to 5 hours on weekdays and Saturdays but only for 2 hours on Sundays up to a maximum of 25 hours in any one week.  They cannot work before 7am or after 7pm on any day.

 Over 16s

Restrictions on teenagers working last until they are over 16 and have left school.  They’re then classed as young workers and have more choice in the kind of work they can do.  National Minimum Wage (NMW) applies from this point onwards for 16 and 17 year olds.


Many local authorities require the child to have an employment permit to be able to work and you as the employer are responsible for providing certain information to enable the local authority to issue the child with the employment permit.  Failure to do so would mean that the child would not be covered by your liability insurance while working on your premises so it’s essential that you check the situation with your local authority before agreeing to give work to anyone under 16.

Need assistance with recruiting and managing young workers? Get in touch today

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