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Children in employment

7 May 2019

Legislation governing the employment of young people:

  • The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 as amended

  • The Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act 1920

  • Children (Protection at Work) Regulations 1998

  • Essex County Council Byelaws on the Employment of Children 1998 is child employment?

A young person cannot be employed in work which:

  • is beyond the child’s physical or psychological capacity 

  • involves harmful exposure to toxic or radioactive substances 

  • involves a risk which cannot be recognised or avoided by young persons because of their lack of attention to safety or lack of experience and training 

  • there is a risk to health from extreme cold or heat, noise or vibration

Remember – school work comes first. School work is very demanding so young people need to be certain they can maintain their studies and cope with the workload. If they do not attend school, are late for school or their school work suffers, they may not be able to continue working and the work permit may be withdrawn.

Work permits

A work permit is a licence issued by the local authority to allow a young person to work.

Without a work permit, employers’ liability insurance may be invalid if there were to be an accident at work. Work permits are valid for as long as the young person is employed in the job that the permit was issued for or until they reach the end of their compulsory education. Compulsory school leaving age is the last Friday in June of school year 11.

The local authority will issue an employment permit if they are satisfied that the proposed employment is lawful.  This means the child’s health, welfare or ability to take full advantage of his or her education would not be jeopardised by employment and that the child is fit to undertake the work for which they are to be employed.

Examples of permitted employment:

  • Light agricultural/horticultural

  • Delivering newspapers

  • Hairdressing - general duties

  • Office

  • Café/restaurant - waiting tables/general duties

  • Riding stables

  • Domestic hotel duties

  • Shop work - general duties

Examples of prohibited employment:

  • Cinema, night club, disco

  • Street trading

  • Commercial kitchen preparing or cooking food

  • Fairground/amusement arcade or skittle alley

  • Collecting money or selling/canvassing door to door

  • Slaughter house

  • Industrial, construction or manufacturing industries

  • Selling or delivering alcohol

  • Collecting/sorting rubbish

  • Delivering milk or fuel

  • Using dangerous machinery

  • Telephone sales

  • Personal care of residents in care/nursing homes

  • Exposure to biological or chemical agents

  • Anything that is three metres or more above ground level

  • Anything that involves exposure to adult material

  • Anything that involves heavy lifting

Hours and times a young person can work

All 7am to 7pm Age Monday to Friday   Saturday Sunday Maximum hours per week
13 and 14 2 hours 5 hours 2 hours 12 hours
15 and 16 2 hours 8 hours 2 hours 12 hours


School holidays 

All 7am to 7pm


Monday to Friday



Maximum hours per week

13 and 14

5 hours

5 hours

2 hours

25 hours

15 and 16

8 hours

8 hours

2 hours

35 hours

Young people can only work between the hours of 7am and 7pm and may not be employed for more than four hours without at least one hour's continuous break.

Responsibilities of an employer

  • Complete an application form within one week of the young person starting work

  • Ensure that the application has been signed by the parent/guardian

  • Carry out a risk assessment before the young person starts work and provide a copy to the parent/carer and ensure that their liability insurance covers the employment of young people

  • Work within the legislation

  • Ensure young people are safe at work and are fully trained

Be aware

It is illegal for employers to:

  • Employ a young person during school hours

  • Employ a young person without a work permit- even if they have been issued with National Insurance number and card

  • Employ a young person under the age of 13 years

  • Employ a young person to undertake jobs that are prohibited

  • Ask or allow a young person to work outside the permitted hours.

Safeguarding young people in your employment:

  • Always carry out a risk assessment

  • Make sure young people are suitably dressed for the job and are protected where appropriate

  • Ensure that if young people use cycles for the job, the cycle is well maintained and fitted with lights and that cycle helmets are worn at all times

  • Issue personal safety alarms to young people who work alone and in isolated locations

  • Contact the Essex County Council Missing Education and Child Employment Service if you are uncertain and/ or need advice.

Issued permits

Once the permit has been issued the employer must only employ the child in accordance with the permit.

The local authority may revoke a child’s employment permit if the authority thinks that the child is undertaking illegal tasks or the child’s health, welfare or education is likely to suffer.

Once the permit has been issued an Invistigation Office may visit the child’s place of work to ensure that the terms of the work permit are being upheld.

Essex County Council can withdraw a work permit if the young person’s school attendance is affected by their job and/or they are not getting the maximum benefit from their education provision due to their job.