How Many Hours Can You Work at 16 & 17? Working Hours & Breaks for Under 18s

There are a different set of rules around how many hours you can work aged 16 & 17 than those that apply to the rest of the workforce. Similarly, young workers under the age of 18 have different break entitlements to employees aged over 18.

young worker in hospitality uniform

The regulations on how long workers under the age of 18 can work, and their breaks, is governed by local authorities.

Some aspects of the rules and regulations may vary within your council area. However shift lengths, break entitlements, and rest periods remain the same.

Our guide to the law on breaks for workers over 18 will help you understand the difference in rules.


How Many Hours Can You Work at 16 & 17?

Workers aged 16 & 17 should not work any more than 8 hours a day or more than 40 hours per week.

Young workers in this age group also have enhanced break entitlements as well as the cap on how many hours per week they can work. 

In some circumstances, an employer can request that a young worker does more than 40 hours per week. However, they must not be relied upon to work in excess of the working hours limit on a regular basis.

The regulations relating to working hours for young workers are the Working Time Regulations.


When can Young Workers Be Asked to Work More Than 40 hours?

An employer can ask a worker aged 16 or 17 to work more than 40 hours per week in times of unusual need for the business.

Employers can only make this request if:-

  • Nobody over 18 is available to carry out the work.
  • The business needs extra overtime hours due to experiencing unusual demand, or to keep the service running.
  • Any training courses or education will not be affected by the extra hours worked.

For example, if you work in a busy shop or cafe and a colleague calls in sick you could be asked to work overtime to cover their shift.  This would be a reasonable request so long as it did not affect your any training or education.

These rules are in place as it is expected that many workers aged 16 & 17 will be completing courses or apprenticeships.


Breaks & Rest Periods for 16 & 17 Year Olds

Young workers aged under 18 are entitled to longer breaks and rest periods than workers who are over the age of 18.

Under 18s should get a minimum of:-

  • A 30 minute break in a working day that is more than 4.5 hours. This break does not have to be paid.
  • 12 hours rest in any 24 hour period. This can mean they should have at least 12 hours between the end of 1 shift and the beginning of the next. The exception to this would be if their work is split into short shifts.

An employer can request that shorter breaks are taken, and 12 hour rest periods are waived in a limited range of circumstances.

These include:-

  • No availability of staff over the age of 18 to do the work.
  • It being a temporary request.
  • A situation arising unexpectedly in the business.
  • Work needing to be done cannot wait.

For example, if a young worker was on shift in a care home and there was an emergency that needed extra staff, it would be reasonable to ask that a break was shortened.

Also, if an employee was working split shifts, the 12 hour rest period between shifts may not apply. This is because a break would have been taken elsewhere in the day. For example, if a hotel employee worked on breakfasts from 6-10 and then worked 6-10 to cover evening meals.

If a worker is asked to waive rest periods and break entitlements, they must be given compensatory rest breaks. That means extra time off to make up for missed rest.

Our guide on break entitlements on 8 hour shifts for adult workers has information on how the rules change when young workers move to the adult rules.


Laws on Working Hours for 16 & 17 Year Olds

Young workers and employers should be aware that in many jobs there are restrictions on the times at which they can be asked to work.


What Time Can 16 or 17 Year Olds Work Until?

There are night working rules which apply in most jobs. This means that 16 & 17 year olds can work until 10pm. They cannot normally be asked to work between 10pm and 6am.

However, if a contract of employment specifies work will take place after 10pm, the latest an employee should finish is 11pm. This would only be acceptable so long as the start time the next day was not earlier than 7am.

If working hours are not specified in the contract of employment, a 10pm finish time applies under law.


Working Hours by Industry

Adjustments to the rules about working after 10pm and before 6am have been made to cater to the needs of specific industries.

16 & 17 year olds can work until midnight or after 4am in the following types of job:-

  • Advertising
  • Agricultural work
  • Bakeries
  • Catering
  • Hospitals or care
  • Hospitality
  • Paper or postal deliveries
  • Retail

Young employees can only be asked to work before 6am and after 10pm in exceptional circumstances.

This means that working during this hours would only be legal if ALL the following applied:-

  • No staff aged over 18 were available to work.
  • An unexpected spike in demand meant that extra staff were needed to keep the service running.
  • Adult supervision was provided if it was necessary for personal safety.
  • Education and training would not be affected by the extra hours worked.
  • Compensatory rest breaks are provided.

Can Under 18s Work Night Shifts?

There are exceptions to the times that 16 & 17 year old employees can work, but it is illegal for under 18s to work between midnight and 4am.

That means that whilst younger employees can work late and early shifts in some circumstances, it is against the law for them to work all night.

There are no exceptions to this rule, even if a worker is doing one of the jobs above. If you are being asked to work night shift and you are under the age of 18, you should inform your local authority.


Minimum Wage for Young Workers

Workers aged 16 & 17 are entitled to national minimum wage. The minimum hourly rate that should be paid for this age group is £4.62 per hour.

Once a young worker reaches the age of 16, their wages should be reported and put through payroll. This is still the case even if they aren’t earning enough to have deductions made via PAYE. Deductions start to be made from pay once £120 a week is being earned.


Workers Aged 13 – 15

Workers aged between 13 and 15 have a different set of rules, as they are likely to be attending full time education. Businesses employing them need licenses from the local authority, and their working hours are more limited.

Our guide on working hours for children under 16 gives a comprehensive overview.

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