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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ 1 - At what age can school age children work?

Child employment legislation applies to children aged 13 to the end of compulsary school education (approximately 16 years of age).

In England and Wales a child ceases to be of compulsary school age on the last Friday of June in the academic year in which they turn 16. 

In Scotland a child ceases to be of compulsary school age on the 31st May in the year they turn 16, if they turn turn 16 between 1st March and 30st September. If they turn 16 between 1st October and the end of February they cease compulsary school age at the start of the Christmas holidays in that school year.

FAQ 2 - What is an Industrial Undertaking? 

Children under the statutory school leaving age, are not permitted to work for any business which is defined as 'an industrial undertaking', even if the work they are doing is work which would be allowed in a business which is not an industrial undertaking. What businesses count as 'an industrial undertaking' defined in the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act 1920 as including working in:-

a) Mines, quarries and other works for the extraction of minerals from the earth.

b) Industries where articles are manufactured, altered, cleaned, repaired, ornamented, finished, adapted for sale, broken up or demolished, or in which materials are transformed, including shipbuilding, the generation, transformation, and transmission of electricity and motive power of any kind

c) Construction, reconstruction, maintenance, repair, alteration or demolition of any building, railway, tramway, harbour, dock, pier, canal, inland waterway, road, tunnel, bridge, viaduct, sewer, drain, well, telegraphic installation, electrical undertaking, gas work, water work, or other work of construction as well as the preparation for or laying the foundations of any such work or structure.

d) Transport of passengers or goods by road or rail or inland waterway, including the handling of goods at docks, quays, wharves, and warehouse, but excluding transport by hand. 

So for example, a child cannot be employed to do light office work in a factory or for a road haulage company because both those businesses are industrial undertakings.

FAQ 3 - What are the model byelaws?

The basic restrictions on the employment of children are in the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 which has been amended over the years. This act allows local authorities to make their own local byelaws to further restrict or define the child employment regulations within their own area. In 1998 the Department for Health issued a set of model byelaws to all local authorities who were encouraged to change their byelaws to follow the model byelaw. Local authorities have subsequently adopted the model byelaw mostly in its entirety although there are some small variations between local authorities to reflect the differences in forms of employment in their areas. 

FAQ 4 - Can children work in a commercial kitchen? 

All local authority byelaws forbid children of compulsory school age from working in a commercial kitchen, ie in the room or area where food is prepared or cooked for sale or for profit. As the circumstances of different restaurants, cafes, and other such places vary enormously a site visit may be required by the local authority child employment team to determine whether or not a work permit or licence can be issued to allow the employment of children in a specific setting.

FAQ 5 - Can children work in pubs?

Yes provided they are not serving alcohol, or working in the kitchen (see working in a commercial kitchen) and only doing light work.

FAQ 6 - If a child is volunteering do they need a licence? 

If the circumstances under which they are volunteering means they are contributing to a business which is carried out for profit even if the profit is for a charity, they will need a work permit or licence from the local authority. For example, volunteering in a charity shop requires a work permit/licence. Volunteering in a youth club which is not being run as a business, would not need a work permit or licence.

FAQ 7- Does work experience require a licence or permit? 

The law which applies when children of compulsory school age take part in work experience is different to the laws applying to the employment of children and no work permit/licence would usually be required. Work experience would usually be arranged through a child's school and would be sanctioned and monitored by them with the child being closely supervised throughout. It takes place during school hours and no payment is made to the child. Relevant insurance is required. Parents and potential employers should check with the child's school and their local authority for further advice

FAQ 8 - My child has received their National Insurance Card, do they still need an employment licence/work permit?

If they are still of compulsary school age, as above, Child Employment Legislation still applies and their employer will need to apply for an employment licence/work permit on their behalf. 

FAQ 9 - Who do I apply to for a Child Employment Licence/Work Permit? 

Contact the Child Employment Team for the local authority where the employment is to take place to obtain a work permit/licence application form. This must be completed and returned to the local authority within  7 days of the child starting work. Contact details for many local authorities can be found in the contact section above.

FAQ 10 - What about children aged 16 to 18 years? Do they need licences?

Once a child is no longer of compulsory school age (see above) a work permit/ licence is no longer required for them to work part time. There are still restrictions on the hours and type of work they are able to do. In addition they have to be receiving a certain number of hours training or education per week. This may be at school or college or part of an apprenticeship scheme. Further details can be found on the website 

FAQ 11 - Can a child be employed as an Assistant to a Sports Instructor, eg A Swimming Instructor's assistant or a Dance Teacher's assistant?

Provided the work is considered to be 'light work' it is not a prohibited activity for a child to be employed in but such employment can only be approved for children aged 14 years or older. They cannot be left in sole charge of any child, and should be under the direct supervision of the Adult Instructor at all times. All other standard safeguarding measures apply as they would for any employee for these particular activities.

FAQ 12 - What should a Risk Assessment contain?

For further guidance on Risk Assessments including templates please see the HSE website. Please ensure you consider the risks which may apply to young employees and take into consideration their lack of experience and any training that may be required. 

FAQ 13 - How many Hours can a Child be Employed and at their place of work?

The maximum hours a child is allowed to work, varies according to the age of the child and whether or not the work is taking place on a school day. The details can be found in the table 'Hours of Employment'
Hours of Employment

The maximum number of permitted hours a child may work, as specified in this table, do not include the minimum rest break of 1 hour which all children must have after working for 4 hours. This rest break of 1 hour after 4 hours of work is the minimum amount of break a child must have. Good practice would be to allow the child additional paid short breaks as appropriate within the maximum total number of hours of work. 

FAQ 14 - Are work permits needed for children employed to make test purchases for Local Authority Trading Standards? 

It depends on whether or not the Trading Standards function which is employing the child, is a part of the Local Authority or 'Contracted Out'. 
If the Trading Standards function is wholly part of the Local Authority, no work permit is required because the Trading Standards function is not a "business carried out for profit". However if the Trading Standards function is "contracted out" to a separate company who do the work on behalf of the Local Authority, then a work permit will be required. Because the separate company contracted to carry out the Trading Standards function will be a "business carried out for profit".