The employment of children: Guidance for employers

The Isle of Wight Council have recently reminded employers of child employment legislation, designed to protect children’s rights in the workplace.

With the summer holidays looming, parents may be looking forward to their children taking their first steps into the adult world of work by getting their first summer job, and perhaps, finally being able to contribute to the costs of all the water and electricity they seem to use.

A part-time job can of course develop young persons’ skills in teamwork and timekeeping, and some may even build a career if they can discover a passion for a particular job they get. A part-time job can develop a young person’s skills in teamwork and timekeeping, provide a reference for future jobs and can assist with budgeting and awareness of saving and spending.

However, the welfare of children is paramount, and while many parents may jump at the opportunity to get their teenager a job, the law provides for strict rules to ensure their needs are met by employers.

Both employers and parents should be aware of the restrictions on the employment of children, and what information they should be provided with.


“Young Person”

Any person who is not over compulsory school age is deemed to be a child for the purpose of the legislation prohibiting or regulating the employment of children or young persons (section 558, Education Act 1996 (EA 1996)).

A “young person” is defined in section 579 of the EA 1996 and regulation 1 of the Working Time Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1833) as someone over compulsory school age but under the age of 18 years.


In addition to the usual meaning of “employment”, the legislation states that a person who assists in a trade or occupation carried on for profit is considered to be employed even though they may receive no payment. This means that the rules will apply where children help their parents in a shop without receiving payment or work in a charity shop. However, unpaid work at a youth club would not qualify as employment since there is no profit motive.

Overview of the legal framework

Unsurprisingly, the employment of children is a highly regulated activity, comprising a patchwork of statutes, local authority byelaws and regulations aimed at ensuring the health, well-being, safety and education of children. The main sources of legislation governing the employment of children are:

  • The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (CYPA 1933).

The aim of this legislation was to establish working conditions for young people leaving school and working part-time. It not only established local authority responsibility for supervising young people outside the family unit but laid the foundations for the modern local authority children’s services.

  • The Children and Young Persons Act 1963 (CYPA 1963).
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3242).

In addition to the statutory framework, local authorities have the power to issue bye-laws limiting the conditions, hours and nature of employment that a child is permitted to engage in.

Examples of Statutory restrictions on the employment of children

All employers and parents should be aware of the basic restrictions on the employment of children before they allow their child to undertake any work.

Age limits

Children under 14 years old may not be employed.

However, this rule can be and often is relaxed by local authority byelaws to allow 13-year-old children to be employed, for example, to deliver newspapers or to stack shelves in a shop.

Any employers wishing to employ children aged 13 should contact the local authority where the employment is to take place to find out if the local authority has issued byelaws permitting employment of children of that age.

Type of work

Children can only be employed to do “light work” (defined as work that is unlikely to be harmful to the child’s safety, health or development, to their school attendance or participation in work experience).

Hours of work

Under section 18(2) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, children cannot be employed:

  • On a school day, before the end of the school day. This rule is often relaxed by local authority byelaws to allow a child to do a newspaper round in the morning before school starts.
  • Before 7 am or after 7 pm.
  • For more than two hours on a day that they have to go to school or on a Sunday.
  • For more than twelve hours in any school term week (a week being a period of seven consecutive days).
  • If they are under 15 years old, for more than five hours on any non-school day from Monday to Saturday. If they are aged 15 or over, for more than eight hours on a non-school day from Monday to Saturday.
  • In the school holidays, if they are under 15 years old, for more than 25 hours in the week, or if they are aged 15 or over, for more than 35 hours in the week. This means that if the school term ends on a Tuesday, a 15-year-old child has to wait until the following Tuesday until they can work for 35 hours.
  • Without a one-hour rest break after working four hours in any day. It makes no difference to this requirement if the child has already had a shorter break within that four-hour period.


There are no statutory restrictions on the rates of pay that can be offered to children. Children are not entitled to receive the national minimum wage (NMW). However, young persons are entitled to receive the NMW at a “young workers’ rate”.


Children must be given a two-week break from any employment in each year. However, there is no statutory right to paid annual leave under regulation 13 of the Working Time Regulations 1998.

Local authority byelaws

All employers MUST check their actual local authority’s byelaws before employing a child because in addition to the statutory restrictions on the employment of children, local authorities have power to make byelaws.

For example, the Isle of Wight Council Byelaws on the Employment of Children 1998, apply to employers on the Isle of Wight.

The legislation is silent on whether the relevant byelaws are those made by the authority where the child lives or those made by the authority where the employment is to take place, but common sense suggests that the relevant byelaws must be those made by the authority where the employment is to take place.

As part of the restrictions on the employment of children or young persons, the Isle of Wight Council operate a permit system under their own byelaw. The council has recently reported that it has issued an average of 120 child employment permits a year to young people across the Island.

Without such a permit, which parents must sign on behalf of the child, the employer will be acting unlawfully if they employ a child/young person.The work permits are issued by the Local Authority, free of charge and it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that children of compulsory school age have a permit and are working within the regulations.

The majority of the byelaws replicate the statutory regime, but do state that from the age of 13, young people can take part in light work in a number of different areas, including shop and office work and working in cafes, restaurants, hairdressing salons and riding stables. The regulations apply up until the child is no longer classed as being of compulsory school age (compulsory school age ends on the last Friday in June if the child will be 16 by the end of the summer holidays).

Employees and parents

Parents and young people should:

  • Meet the employer face to face;
  • Obtain a clear job description;
  • Ask for a copy of the employer’s insurance;
  • Read and sign the permit for employment;
  • Read and approve the employers risk assessment;
  • Monitor working hours;
  • Regularly ask your child/young person what work they are actually doing to ensure it complies with the permit.


Employers will need to:

  1. Check their local authority byelaws to see if employment permits are required for child/young person employees to ensure that they comply with their obligations to notify the relevant employment details to their local authority within a week of the child starting work.
  2. Be aware of the age limits that apply to employing a child and how that restricts their employment of children.
  3. Be aware of the prohibitions and restrictions on certain categories of work and of the health and safety requirements. For example, an employer should ensure that the child has been adequately trained and supervised for the job they are required to do, is made aware of any of the risks that are involved in the job and has been provided with any necessary safety equipment and clothing.
  4. Carry out a risk assessment and provide a copy to the child’s parents.
  5. Check the terms of its Employers’ Liability Insurance to ensure that it covers the employment of children.
  6. Be mindful of the child’s welfare while in their employment.
  7. Be aware of the penalties for breaching the statutory legislation or a local authority’s bye-laws.
  8. Ensure they apply for a licence if they will be employing a child to appear in a performance.
  9. Make sure that the child is not asked to do work that has not been previously agreed with the licensing authority.
  10. Be aware of the rules on safeguarding children including:
  • conducting DBS checks; and
  • the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.

The council can issue fines of up to £1,000 for each child worker, if they are found to be breaking laws and bylaws covering child employment.

It is also important to note that if a child is working without a child employment permit, there is a risk that the employer will not be insured against accidents involving the child.

In addition, a child’s absence from school due to employment, whether paid or unpaid, would be treated as an unauthorised absence by a local education authority and could lead to action being taken against the child’s parents.

None of this should however put young people, parents and employers off from engaging young persons for work. As long as all parties involved are willing to understand and work within the restrictions, parents, employers and young people can reap the benefits of working.


For more information, see the IOW Council website

Don’t forget getting advice from a Solicitor does not have to be complicated or costly!

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

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The information contained in this blog post is provided for guidance and is a snapshot of the law at the time it is written. It is provided for your information only and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice that it specific to your particular circumstances.

The guidance should not be relied upon in any decision making process. It is strongly recommended that you seek advice before taking action.

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