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

Starting your first job is an exciting time. Young workers can get their first part time employment at the legal minimum age of 13 under UK employment laws. A full time position can be taken on 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 employment laws which set out the 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.

There are three industries where the laws do not apply, but these come with their own strict rules. These industries are television, modelling and theatre.

There can be further regulations on young workers in place at local council level.

Part Time Work

When a child turns 13, they can begin part time work but with strict restrictions in place. Workers between the ages of 13 and 14 are allowed to work a maximum of 12 hours per week during the term.

On school days they can only work for a maximum of 2 hours and this applies to Sundays too. They can work up to 5 hours on Saturdays and 8 hours when they reach 15.

During the school holidays, workers aged 13 and 14 can work up to a maximum of 25 hours per week. Saturdays and weekdays must be at most 5 hours and 2 hours still on Sundays.

15 and 16 year olds can work 12 hours per week during the term and 35 hours per week during the school holidays.

See Also: Working Hours for Children.

Full Time Work

You can begin full time employment 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.

Their hours per week must be capped at 40 hours unless there are mitigating circumstances for overtime.

Working Time Regulations must be followed by all employers who are hiring 16 & 17 year olds. They should not be doing more than 8 hours per day and should also receive the correct length of breaks. Lunch breaks are not to be included in the total number of working hours per week.

The type of work environment may mean further restrictions will be in place. For example, if the job is very physical, more breaks may be offered to young workers. Some types of machinery cannot be used by young people without the appropriate licences and training.

See Also:Under 18 Working Hours.

Can a 16 Year Old Work Full Time?

This answer can cause a little confusion because the answer is a bit of yes and a bit of no! The day a young person turns 16 does not mean they are at a legal age begin full time work.

Instead, they must reach the legal school leaving age to work full time hours. This 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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