Age limits – work

Working full-time

You can work full-time once you can legally leave full-time education  at around the age of 16 but different rules will apply to you until you reach the age of 18. 

In England, you will have to do some education or training until you are 18, whether or not you work.

Working part-time

While you are of compulsory school age , the law says that you can only work for a strictly limited number of hours each week, at limited times, and only in certain types of job – and there are a number of extra conditions as well.

The rules vary slightly depending on whether you are in England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, and your local council may have extra rules which apply in your area.

An outline of the current rules is found on the UK Government website here.

The younger you are, the stricter the rules.If you are under 13, you can only work in areas like television, theatre and modelling, and you will need a performance licence from your local council.

To check the detailed rules which apply where you live, get in touch with the education department of your local council.

Your employer – not you – will be punished if they break the rules on youth employment, but you too should respect these rules, which are there to protect your health, education and well-being.

Getting paid

If you are of compulsory school age – essentially, under 16 –  you are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage ; your employer can decide what to pay you. Once you reach 16, there are different rates of the National Minimum Wage for different ages ; current rates are set out here.

Working in bars and pubs

If you are 16 or 17, you can sell or serve alcohol in a restaurant without supervision if it is to be drunk with a table meal.

If you are under 18 you can sell alcohol in a bar provided the sale is specifically approved by a responsible person, who will be the licence holder or manager.

However, in both of the above cases, a local authority may have bye-laws which stop people aged under 18 selling alcohol except in sealed containers, such as in cans or bottles. Your employer is responsible for making sure the rules are followed.

You might also be interested in these pages:

Get a job
Discover the joys of work
Your employment rights