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Children's Working Rights

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 26 Mar 2018 | comments*Discuss
Children Working Rights Minimum Wage

Children of a certain age have a right to work. A substantial amount of UK law protects this right and lays down what children can and cannot do. Parents, teachers and employers, as well as children, need to understand the basics of this legislation. Only then can they avoid any risk of exploitation and guarantee children's working rights.

The Law

The main law that affects children's working rights is the Children and Young Persons Act (1933). But more than 200 other items of legislation also apply to varying degrees. Among this legislation are Acts of Parliament, international instruments, European laws and local authority by-laws. The latter are especially important. People who have questions about local employment practices for children should speak to their councils. And because the law regarding children's working rights is sometimes contradictory, it may be wise to seek professional legal advice.

Minimum Wage

There is a national minimum wage for children aged 16 and 17. Local authorities and JobCentre Plus offices have details of the current hourly amount. Children under the age of 16 do not have legal wage protection.

Children Under 13

Children under 13 may act, dance or model for money. But the relevant local authority must first issue a licence.

A local authority issues a licence under certain conditions:

  • The child must be fit to do the work
  • The child's education must not suffer
  • The employer must treat the child kindly and look after his or her health

Children Aged 13

Employment of 13-year-old children is restricted. The actual rules vary according to each local authority.

Some local authorities allow children aged 13 to work for occasional periods on their parents' farms, for example. Others are happy for 13-year-olds to work in specified jobs. The general term that covers these jobs is "light work".

Local authority by-laws set the days, hours and times of day a child aged 13 may work. The laws also provide details of meal and rest breaks, holidays and any other appropriate conditions.

Children Aged 14

14 is the minimum age for working set by the Children and Young Persons Act (1933). The Act also contains a set of conditions that apply to 14-year-old children's working rights.
  • A child must have a minimum of two consecutive weeks a year without work during a holiday period.
  • During a holiday period, the maximum number of weekly working hours for a child is 25.
  • If a child works for more than four hours in a day, he or she should have a rest break of an hour.
  • On a school day, a child must not work after 7.00 p.m., before 7.00 a.m. or during school hours. A child must also not work for more than two hours on any school day. The maximum number of working hours in a school week is 12.
  • During a holiday period, a child must not work for more than five hours on any day except Sunday. On Sunday, he or she must not work more than two hours.
  • A child must only do "light work". The Act defines this as jobs that are not harmful to the development, health and safety of children. The work must also not adversely affect children's education.

The Act lays down specific jobs children should not do. These include working in betting shops and petrol stations. They must also not be involved in scrap metal sales, street trading, performing abroad and house-to-house charity collections. Some local authorities do allow 14-year-old children to work in street trading with their parents. Children may also perform abroad if a justice of the peace grants a specific licence for them to do so.

Children Aged 15 and 16

The Children and Young Persons Act (1933) restricts the work of 15-year-olds. It also restricts the work of 16-year-olds who have yet to reach school leaving age. The restrictions are similar to those for 14-year-olds. But when a child aged 15 or 16 is not at school, he or she can work for up to eight hours on a weekday and Saturday. The maximum number of working hours for a week during a holiday period is 35.

Health and Safety

The Management of Health and Safety Regulations (1999) make important points about children's working rights. According to the legislation, employers must protect people aged under 18 from health and safety risks that occur because of inexperience and a lack of awareness about potential and existing risks. Employers must also take account of a young person's immaturity.

If a company employs children who have yet to reach the school leaving age, it must give parents information about any health and safety risks. It must also list the measures that are in place to reduce these risks to the minimum.

Statutory Sick Pay

Only people aged 16 or above are entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP). Furthermore, a 16-year old must have left school before becoming eligible for SSP.

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