Legal Age to Work in the UK – When Can You Start Working?

Starting a first job is an exciting milestone for those who have reached the legal age to work in the UK. Young workers can get their first part time employment at age of 13. A full time job can begin at school leaving age, which is 16.

However, there are strict laws for employees aged under 18 regarding working hours, breaks, wages, and when full time employment can begin. It’s important to note that the legal minimum age to work full time in the UK is not always exactly on a young worker’s 16th birthday.

The regulations are there to ensure young workers and child workers remain safe at work, and their education is not impacted by working too many hours.

Minimum Ages to Work in the UK

In the UK, all employers must follow the law on minimum working ages. As soon as a child reaches the age of 13, they can legally begin a part time job. Before this age, they are not permitted to work, even if it is unpaid.

A person’s age dictates how many hours they can work and what minimum level of wage they should be receiving. The laws exist to protect young people and to keep working conditions consistent and fair.

What Age Can You Get a Part Time Job?

When a child turns 13, they can begin part time work. There are strict rules about how many hours they can work. There are exceptions for children involved in theatre, tv, or modelling, but a performance license is required.

All employees aged 13 to 16 are known as “child workers”. This age group does not have to be paid a minimum wage, and their pay does not have to be processed via PAYE.

Working Hours & Breaks For Under 16s

Child workers with a part time job have strict rules on working hours and breaks. The rules vary depending on their age, the day of the week, and whether the work is carried out during school term time.

Restrictions on Employment

There are restrictions on where and when child workers are allowed to undertake paid work.

They are not allowed to work:-

  • During school hours.
  • Before 7am or after 7pm.
  • For more than 1 hour before school.
  • More than 4 hours without a 1 hour break.
  • In factories, industrial environments, or in any work harmful to their health and education.
  • Without getting a 2 week break from any work during school holidays in each year.

Working Hours for 13 & 14 Year Olds

There are limitations on the number of hours worked each week for the youngest child workers.

During the school term this age group can work a maximum of:-

  • 12 hours per week.
  • 2 hours on school days and Sundays.
  • 5 hours on Saturdays.

During the school holidays this age group can work a maximum of:-

  • 25 hours per week.
  • 5 hours on weekdays and Saturdays.
  • 2 hours on Sundays.

Working Hours for 15 & 16 Year Olds

Once a child has turned 15, there are some increases number of hours they are able to work and permitted shift lengths.

During the school term, this age group can work a maximum of:

  • 12 hours per week.
  • 2 hours on school days and Sundays.
  • 8 hours on Saturdays.

During the school holidays, this age group can work a maximum of:

  • 35 hours per week.
  • 8 hours on weekdays and Saturdays.
  • 2 hours on Sundays.

Source: Restrictions on Child Employment, UK Gov.

Related: How many hours can 14 & 15 year olds work?

What Age Can You Begin Full Time Work?

You can begin working full time hours once you reach the minimum school leaving age at 16. However, those under the age of 18 have a different set of regulations around their working hours.

Workers aged 16 & 17 must have their working hours capped at 40 hours per week and 8 hours per day. Overtime can be worked in exceptional circumstances to meet business needs, but compensatory rest must be provided.

Working Time Regulations must be followed by all employers who are hiring 16 & 17 year olds. They should not be working over 8 hours per day and should also receive longer breaks than older workers.

See Also:Under 18 Working Hours.

Can a 16 Year Old Work Full Time?

A 16 year old can start full time work, but must first reach legal school leaving age to legally work full time hours. This date may not fall on their birthday, and can vary depending on where you are in the UK.

In England, you can finish school on the last Friday in June as long as you will be 16 before the summer holidays finish.

The cap on work hours is set at 40 because there is still a requirement to be pursuing education or an apprenticeship after the age of 16. This should be the case until each person is 18  years old.

See Also: Apprentice Employment Rights.

Minimum Wage Rates When Starting Work

As well as different rules around hours that can be worked, there are also laws regarding minimum wage rates for young workers.

There are no minimum wage requirements for anyone under the age of 16. Children under the age of 16 are also not required to be enrolled on the PAYE system as they do not pay national insurance.

Businesses employing school aged children must adhere to local regulations which may involve getting a special permit. This can protect businesses against accidents and incidents in the workplace.

From the age of 16, workers are entitled to the national minimum wage. At the time of writing, February 2023 it is £4.81 per hour. In April 2023, this will be increasing to £5.28 per hour.

See Also: Minimum Wage for Under 18s

What Types of Work Are Available to Young Workers?

Many young people are keen to look for work as soon as they can, and many businesses do recognise this.

Below, we list some of the common job opportunities for young workers and share some job hunting tips too.

What Jobs Can You Get at 13?

Below are some examples of jobs that are often available to young people who are between 13 and 16 years old.

  • Paper round
  • Gardening work for the family.
  • Farm work for the family.
  • Babysitting
  • Pet Sitting
  • Youth work
  • Washing cars
  • Cafe work

You can search for jobs online from the age of 13 and over. Even without work experience at this age, you can still put a CV together. You can list your attributes and skills and talk about what you enjoy doing.

Sometimes, going into local businesses and asking if you can help out can open some doors. Events such as youth clubs are often looking for teenagers to help out. While this won’t be paid, it will look great on a CV and a great start to your experience of work.

What Jobs Can You Get at 16?

At 16, there is more scope and possibilities in the job hunting process. Many more employers including large chains will consider employing young workers full or part time.

At age 16 you can look for a job in the following industries:-

  • Retail
  • Catering
  • Lifeguard training
  • Barista
  • Dog walker
  • Bagger
  • Fast food venues.
  • Local businesses
  • Party helpers

By the age of 16, you can put together a CV which will list your current qualifications and skills. You might be able to include some goals for the future and any hobbies you have.

Confidence is key when you attend interviews and there are lots of tips online for making a good first impression.

Further Reading: Age Discrimination in the Workplace – this type of unequal treatment can also affect young workers.


Can a 12 year old work?

You cannot work legally in the UK until you are 13 years old. This includes both paid and unpaid work. The only exceptions to this rule are certain industries which are modelling, theatre and television.

How many hours can a 15 year old work?

A 15 year old can work part time hours in both the term time and holidays. During the term, they can work up to 12 hours per week. In the holidays this can be increased to 35 hours per week.

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