Work for under 18s

If you're under 18 make sure the type of work you're doing, the hours, and your pay are all legal.

Girl holding an L plate

Learning equals filing. Great.

What type of work can I do under 18?

Working in a bar: If you are 16 or 17, you can’t work in a bar when it’s open for the sale of alcohol. If you are doing bar work under 18, it’s your boss, and not you, who’s breaking the law.

Working for the armed forces: If you’re under 18, you’ll need both parents’ permission to join the armed forces (unless your parents are divorced, in which case it’s only the parent you live with).

Babysitting: You can babysit at any age, apart from in Northern Ireland where you must be 13 or over. And you’re allowed to look after a child of any age.

Acting, modelling and sports: If you’re a model or get into professional sport, you’ll need to get a licence from your local authority before you start work. If you’re acting, you can perform up to four days within six months – but then you’ll need a licence too.

How much should I get paid?

The minimum wage for 16 to 17 year-olds is now £3.68 per hour; there is no set rate for under 16s. If you feel you aren’t being paid enough, check and see whether your mates are being paid much more for their jobs. If they are, try to negotiate a pay rise with your boss.

You can join a trade union at any age.

What hours can I work under 16?

If you are under 16 ,you’re not allowed to work:

  • Before 7am or after 7pm
  • During school hours on any school day
  • For more than two hours on a school weekday, or for more than 12 hours in any week (unless you’re on school holidays)
  • For more than eight hours on Saturdays and holidays (two hours on Sundays)
  • For more than 35 hours a week during the holidays

You are also entitled to daily and annual rest breaks:

  • If you work for more than four hours in any day, you must have an hour break.
  • Every year you must have two weeks holiday when you do not work

Be aware that these rules may vary in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

What hours can I work aged 16 to 17?

  • You must not work more than eight hours a day, or more than 40 hours a week
  • You must have a 12 hour rest between each shift, and two rest days a week
  • You’re also entitled to a 30-minute rest break when you work for longer than four-and-a-half hours

However, there are some exceptions to these rules:

  • If you stay on at school, it can restrict the type of work and number of hours you can do
  • There are some exceptions to working overnight if you work in hospitals, agriculture, retail, hotels and catering, bakeries, post/newspaper deliveries, or in connection with cultural, artistic, sporting or advertising activities
  • If you are allowed to work at night, you must first be given free, regular assessments of your health and ability to do the work.

How do I get a job if I’m under 18?

These sorts of jobs aren’t always advertised, so you have to be proactive – which basically means putting yourself out there and harassing people until someone hires you.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • If you want to babysit, it’s worth making leaflets and posting them through your neighbours’ doors.
  • It’s not only shops that can offer part-time work. Pubs and restaurants always need washer-uppers, hotels always need chambermaids, and farms usually need helping hands during peak times. Don’t limit yourself to the high street.
  • Ask your parents, and your parents’ friends. They may well need someone to clean the house, or help out with odd jobs in their offices.
  • Consider online jobs. You can make a few quid writing online reviews,or taking online surveys. Or you could ask a local business if they want you to set up a Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr account for them. Lots of companies find these things hard, when it’s likely to come naturally to you.

Your CV – and what to do with it

If this is your first job, you’re not going to have masses of career experience. Instead, write a page describing what you’re studying, your skills and any volunteering experience. Then:

  • Take several copies to your local town centre.
  • Go from shop to shop, asking if you can chat to the manager, or whoever is in charge of hiring.
  • Say ‘hello’, shake their hand, and tell them that you’re looking for a part-time job. Ask if there are any positions available.
  • If they say ‘yes’, they’re likely to direct you towards the company’s website. But ask if you can leave a copy of your CV anyway, this will help you stand out in their minds.
  • If they say ‘no’, ask when something’s likely to come up. And again, ask if you can leave a copy of your CV anyway. They may well ring you up when they’re at a loose end.

If I work, can I leave school?

They’re changing the participation age (the age you’re allowed to leave school or training) to 18, so even if you work full-time, you may have to do some kind of training. Even if you’re over 16. Check to see if these new laws affect you.

If the changes don’t apply to you, you’re still entitled to reasonable time off for study or training. You should be paid at your normal rate for this time off.

Next Steps

  • Find your local Citizens Advice here, for free and independent legal advice. Or call their helpline. 03454 04 05 06
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


work rights


Updated on 29-Sep-2015