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Employing young people aged 16-17

As we approach the end of the summer terms and the end of exam season there are going to be many 16 – 17-year-olds available and looking for work, whether that be on a short-term seasonal basis or longer term.

The employment of young people who are over compulsory school leaving age and under 18 is permitted but there are slightly different rules that apply with regards to their working hours.

School leaving age

A young person can leave school on the last Friday in June of the school year in which they reach 16 years of age.

Although they can leave school, by September they will need to be undertaking some training or education and this must continue to 18. This can include:

  1. full-time education, e.g. at a college, doing A Levels, T Levels or other academic qualifications,
  2. an apprenticeship,
  3. work or volunteer for 20 hours or more a week while in part-time education or training.

Working time rules for employing a young person 16-17

There are different rules under the working time regulations for those under 18 but over compulsory school age.

1. Weekly working time.

There is a limit of no more than 40 hours in any week (Monday to Sunday).

2. Daily working time.

Young workers may not generally work more than eight hours per day.

3. Daily rest.

They must have at least 12 hours rest in each 24-hour period. This means that if they finish work at 11pm they should not start work again until 11am the next day.  

4. Weekly rest.

Generally, they must have at least 48 hours of consecutive rest in each seven-day period. That means that they have two days off in a row in each week.

There is an exception where it can be justified by technical or organisational reasons, but in this case the rest period should be no less than 36 consecutive hours.

5. Rest breaks.

If they work more than four and a half hours in one day they are entitled to a rest break of at least 30 minutes.

Where possible, the break must be consecutive rather than split into two 15 minute breaks for example.

6. Night work.

Generally young people are restricted from working at night. Night work Is classified as the period between 10.00 pm and 6.00 am or if there is a requirement for the role to work after 10pm the period changes to between 11.00 pm and 7.00 am.

A young person can work until midnight or from 4am, if there are no persons over 18 to do the night work, in the following sectors:

  • Catering
  • Advertising
  • Baking
  • Hospital or similar medical environment
  • Hotel, pub or restaurant
  • Post or newspaper delivery
  • Retail
  • Agriculture

Working between midnight and 4am is strictly prohibited for anyone aged 16-17.


This rest periods described above may in some cases be interrupted if the activities they are doing involve periods of work that are split up over the day or are of short duration.

There may also be an exception to the rest periods if there is something exceptional or out of the ordinary that happens, and they are need to cover where there is no-one 18 and over to do the work.

Calculating hours worked

When calculating the hours for the purposes of the restrictions above you do not include the rest breaks including lunch or other breaks where the young person is not required to undertake work.

Additional Health and Safety considerations

It is important to note that a young person will have little to no work experience and therefore will require a higher level of training, induction, and supervision than other employees and workers.

I would recommend that a specific health and safety risk assessment is undertaken to identify any potential risks and mitigation for that individual young person.

It is also important to given them a designated person to supervise them from a work perspective and also someone separate who is allocated to be responsible for their welfare and whom they can go to with any concerns.

Your responsibility to shape that young person

I often hear from employers and managers that they are frustrated with the lack of common sense or poor attitude from young people. I hear them described as ‘snowflakes’ and how frustrated adults get with them in the work environment.

My response is that as their employer, manager or supervisor you have the job of shaping that young person, guiding them and supporting them to do the job to the best of their ability and to learn the skills needed for the world of work.

It is easy to forget that they lack experience and grew up in a different environment and different time. For many young people they have not had the opportunity to grow and learn and make mistakes that those of us who grew up pre mid-90’s did. There is also a whole generation who missed out on their formative years during covid and are lacking some of the general skills and experience that you gain from being a young person out and about in the world.

Working with a young person, even in a temporary summer job, gives you the opportunity to influence and shape that person for the rest of their life.

If you have any questions about employing young people or would like to discuss further, please do not hesitate to contact the RELA team on 01983 897003.

Photo by Eliott Reyna 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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