Work for under 18s

If you're under 18 and skint, you’ve probably thought about getting a job. But before you go applying for everything in sight and dreaming of endless riches, there’s some stuff you should probably be aware of. Read The Mix’s guide to work for under 18s in the UK to make sure you don’t get ripped off.

A young woman is playing table tennis. She is thinking about jobs for under 18s. This is a wide-angle image.

What is the minimum age to work in the UK?

If you’re on the cusp of 16, then you’re probably wondering to yourself, ‘What age can you get a job in the UK?’ and assuming that it’s 16. Truth is, in most cases the minimum age to work in the UK is at the age of 13. Bet you’re kicking yourself for those wasted 3 years, right? 

There are a few exceptions, for example work in television, theatre and modelling. But generally speaking, all under 18s are subject to various restrictions on the type of work they can do and the hours they can work. 

Under 18s UK working hours  and jobs

Under 18s working hours in the UK are limited to work a maximum of eight hours per day and up to 40 hours per week. For under 16s this goes down to a maximum of 35 hours per week. Some of the jobs that you can work those hours at include: 

Working in a bar: As long as it doesn’t sell alcohol. If you’re 16 or 17, you can’t work in a bar when it’s open for the sale of alcohol. It’s important to note that if you’re 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. Similarly, you’re allowed to look after a child of any age. Kind of surprising tbh. As a ground rule we’d recommend you avoid looking after kids until you can at least brush your own teeth, but that’s just us.

Acting, modelling and sports: If you’re a model or getting a start in 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 the licence thing still applies.

How much should I get paid?

Being a young person unfortunately means you automatically get paid less. The minimum wage for 16 to 17 year-olds is now £4.62 per hour (increasing to £4.81 after April 2022). If you’re under 16 then there’s no legal requirement for you to be paid a certain amount. We should also mention that you can join a trade union at any age.

To learn more about the minimum wage, read this article by clicking here.

Jobs for under 16s and the legal working hours

If you’re looking for jobs for under 16s, we can help narrow it down. Here’s a list of restrictions:

  • Before 7am or after 7pm are off limits.
  • During school hours on any school day.
  • You can’t work for more than two hours on a school weekday, or for more than 12 hours in any week (unless you’re on school holidays), more than eight hours on Saturdays and holidays (two hours on Sundays) or 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’re entitled to an hour break.
  • Every year you have to have a two-week holiday where you don’t work.

Be aware that these rules may vary in Northern Ireland and Scotland. So make sure to do some extra research before you start the job-hunt, just in case.

What hours can you work at 16 and 17?

  • You can’t work more than eight hours a day, or more than 40 hours a week.
  • You get 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’re on the job search and still 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’re allowed to work at night, before you start you should be given free, regular assessments of your health and ability to do the work. You can find out more about night shift work here.

Your CV – and what to do with it

If this is your first job, you’re not going to have pages and pages of work experience. And that’s okay. Instead, write a page describing what you’re studying, your skills and any relevant 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’s in charge of hiring.
  • Say ‘hello’, shake their hand (firmly), and tell them that you’re looking for a part-time job. Be sure to ask if there are any positions available.
  • If they say ‘yes’, they’re likely to direct you towards the company’s website. But try and find a way to leave a copy of your CV anyway; this’ll help you stand out in their minds.
  • If they say ‘no’, politely 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 in a time of need.

Just remember to mention your email address when you’re applying for jobs. That way they have an easy line of contact. For more advice you can check out our tips for how to write a cover letter here, and our tips for how to write a CV here.

If I work, can I leave school?

The participation age (the age you’re allowed to leave education or training) has changed to 18. So even if you work full-time, you may have to do some kind of training. That includes you 16 and 17 year olds out there. Check the government’s website 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 also be paid at your normal rate for this time off.

For more information about work for under 18s, Check out The Mix’s article on Saturday work for young people here. Once you’re done with that, share your thoughts and experiences of finding work as a young person on  our discussion boards.

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

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 05-Feb-2022