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For many of us, our first taste of the working world was getting a paper round or a Saturday job in a local shop. But what are the rules today about employment for children? Can 14-year-olds work in the UK? And if they can, what are they allowed to do?

14 might seem very young to work, especially as children under 16 are still meant to be in school, but there are jobs out there that give kids the chance to top up their pocket money or start to get a glimpse of the joys of the working world.

However, it’s crucial as a small or medium business to understand the rules around this sensitive issue to ensure businesses aren’t exploiting child labour. In this guide we’ll cover everything you need to know about work for 14-year-olds, including:

  • How many hours can a 14-year-old work?
  • Where can 14-year-olds work?

It’s important to note that employing children has restrictions in place to safeguard both the children and the business. Always refer back to the government website for information on rules and restrictions when employing children.

So here’s your guide to when, where and how a 14-year-old can work.

How many hours can a 14-year-old work?

Technically 13 is the starting age at which a child under 16 is allowed to get a part-time job, though it’s key to check local by-laws in your area as some areas don’t allow 13-year-olds to work.

The only work children younger than 13 are legally allowed to do is to be involved with television, theatre and modelling, though children below this age will need a performance licence to do so.

Something else to factor in is that the rules about what a 14-year-old can work in terms of hours vary between term time and school holidays. During term times working hours for 14-year-olds go up to 12 hours a week as a maximum, including:

  • A maximum of 2 hours on school days and Sundays
  • A maximum of 5 hours on Saturdays

This is to ensure that work isn’t getting in the way of their studies, so the rules are less restrictive during school holidays when there is more time available. During holidays 14-year-olds’ working hours go to 25 hours a week, including:

  • A maximum of 5 hours on weekdays and Saturdays
  • A maximum of 2 hours on Sunday

Where can 14-year-olds work?

So, now you know the answer to how many hours can a 14-year-old work, the question is where can 14-year-olds work? What kind of jobs can they do? The UK government has some specific restrictions on what they can and can’t do, and these are that they can’t work:

  • Without an employment permit issued by the education department of the local council, if this is required by local bylaws
  • In places like a factory or industrial site
  • During school hours
  • Before 7am or after 7pm
  • For more than one hour before school (unless local bylaws allow it)
  • For more than 4 hours without taking a break of at least 1 hour
  • In any work that may be harmful to their health, well-being or education
  • Without having a 2-week break from any work during the school holidays in each calendar year

These restrictions are designed to protect children, so it is absolutely essential to adhere to them. The first point mentions local bylaws and you should ensure that you check with your local council for any particular restrictions about the type of employment or conditions of work in your area.

Employment permits are necessary for children to be able to work

Getting an employment permit is also a crucial step for businesses to take to protect themselves and most councils do require them. But even if they aren’t mandatory, they also help ensure that you will be insured against accidents involving the child, so it is good practice to get a permit.

You can contact your council’s education department or education welfare service for more information about employment permits. You don’t need these for work experience placements arranged by schools.

Where can 14-year-olds work in the UK? And what kind of jobs?

Here are some jobs that are suitable for children. They can:

  • Deliver newspapers and leaflets
  • Work in a shop, including stacking shelves
  • Work in an office
  • Work in a café or restaurant, but not in the kitchen
  • Work in hotels and other places offering accommodation

Places that a 14-year-old couldn’t work include:

  • In factories or industrial sites
  • In pubs or betting shops
  • In areas prohibited by local bylaws
  • In a job that could negatively affect their wellbeing, education, or health

Child employment: Paying children and young people

Another key question around employing 14-year-olds is, what should they be paid? They aren’t yet eligible for the National Minimum Wage, which is £4.81, so their salary should be worked out between themselves and their employers depending on what job they are doing, but it would be good practice and fair to offer at least the minimum wage.

They can only start full-time work once they’ve reached the minimum school leaving age of 16, at which point they can work up to 40 hours a week and get paid through PAYE. However, adult employment rights and rules only apply to them once they are over 18 years old.

And finally, we’ve covered when 14-year-olds can work and what they can do, but what are the benefits for a small business in hiring them? Here are some advantages and benefits that they can bring:

  • Enthusiasm - Children getting their first taste of the working world will be excited to get started and show you what they can do. They may also bring some fresh energy and ideas from their perspective that could be useful, especially if you are seeking to target their generation as customers.
  • Technology - 14-year-olds today have grown up in a world where technology has been at their fingertips since they were toddlers. The iPhone is older than they are. So if your business is in need of someone who knows how to make things work, they can be quick learners and also teach the rest of you a thing or two.
  • Flexibility - Younger employees can cover short shifts or task based roles, like paper rounds, that an adult would be less likely to do. Although they can work certain amounts in term-time, they’ll also likely to be more time-flexible than adult employees during holidays (particularly useful over Christmas).
  • Potential - For many 14-year-olds, a job is just a way to earn extra pocket money or something their parents encourage them to do to help them develop some responsibility. But there will also be those who build up a strong relationship with the small business that takes a chance on them. They may keep coming back to the point of being taken on full-time, coming into the business with years of experience and skills that would take time for a new starter to pick up.

So, there you have it, a complete guide to the working world at fourteen.