The Law on Employing Children

If you are in an industry where employing children is the norm, you will need to know about the laws surrounding child employment, such as minimum ages and pay scales.

Child work and minimum ages

A child can start part time work when they reach the age of 13. This is the minimum age for part time work, other than when children are employed in television, theatre and modelling work. Any child working in these areas will require a performance licence.

When it comes to full time work, children are only permitted to commence such a role once they reach the minimum school leaving age. Once they do, they are allowed to work up to a maximum of 40 hours per week. When someone reaches the age of 18, they immediately attain adult employment rights. In England, all young people must either be in training or part time education until they are 18 years of age.

Paying children and young people for work

Children under the age of 16 are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage. Under the age of 16, there is no National Insurance to pay, so they do not need to be included on the payroll unless their total income exceeds their Personal Allowance.

Once a child reaches the age of 16, things change. Young workers between the ages of 16 and 17 are entitled to a minimum of £4.20 per hour. Their pay must be included in your running payroll. If they earn more than £116 per week then you must include them in your PAYE calculations.

Restrictions on child working

There are numerous restrictions in place when it comes to child working. For example, children are not permitted to work during school hours; for more than one hour before school, unless allowed under local bylaws; before 7am or after 7pm; in an industrial setting; without an employment permit issued by the local council's education department (if required under local bylaws); for more than four hours without a break lasting a minimum of one hour; in any work that may be harmful to their health, well-being or education; without a two week break from any work during the school holidays for each calendar year and in most betting shop and pub roles and those prohibited by local bylaws.

Special rules apply during term and school holiday times

During term time, children can only work up to 12 hours per week. This includes maximum of two hours on Sundays and school days, and a maximum of five hours on Saturdays for those aged between 13 and 14 years, or 8 hours for 15-16 year olds.

During school holidays, children aged between 13 and 14 are only permitted to work up to 25 hours per week, including a maximum of five hours on Saturdays and weekdays, and a maximum of two hours on Sundays. 15-16 year olds can work up to 35 hours per week, including a maximum of 8 hours on Saturdays and weekdays, and up to two hours on Sundays.

Local bylaws and child working

Local bylaws vary and will set out the jobs that children cannot undertake if they are under the minimum school leaving age. Some will also restrict working hours, the type of employment that a child can undertake, and the conditions of that work. You'll need to liaise with the education department of your local council or the education welfare service to learn more and ensure you are working within their parameters.

If you are in any doubt as to pay scales for child workers, your bookkeepers will be able to provide the guidance you need.

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