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Employing children

How to apply for a child work permit and further legal conditions that apply to employing children.

Where a young person’s school attendance is above 90% and all relevant documentation has been supplied, a work permit will be issued.

For young people whose school attendance for the academic year is below 90% and where relevant documentation has been supplied, individual circumstances will be considered before a work permit is issued, however, the application may be declined on account of poor school attendance.

Key background

  • The definition of 'work' as applies to children below Minimum School Leaving Age (MSLA) is: 'any work that is part of a business whether or not the person is paid'.
  • Children cannot work until they are 13 years old and may only do work involving light duties.
  • Babysitting is not considered 'work' by the law.
  • All children who are employed must hold a work permit.
  • Statutory school leaving date is the last Friday in June in the academic year in which the child is 16 years old.

Work permits

  • A work permit can be issued to a child between 13 and the statutory school leaving age. The application must be completed by the employer, we do not accept work permit applications from parents/carers or children.
  • The work permit must be issued in the local authority where children work, regardless of where they live or go to school.
  • A risk assessment must be carried out and shown to the child’s parents before a work permit is issued.
  • The risk assessment must be submitted with the application form.
  • The work permit application form must be signed by the child's school.

Apply for the permit

The employer should apply for the work permit and the Guidance for using the parent portal is for the Employer and not the parent

Guidance for using the parent portal (pdf format)

Apply online for a child's part-time work permit

Child employees

A child employee:

  • can only ever work between 7am and 7pm
  • must have two weeks free from work each year
  • must not work more than 12 hours during any school week
  • can work a total of two hours on a school day between 7am and 8.30am and after school until 7pm
  • can only work for two hours on a Sunday
  • must have a rest break of one hour after working four hours.

At age 13 and 14

  • can work for five hours on a Saturday
  • can work for five hours on weekdays during school holidays
  • can only work for 25 hours per week during school holidays

At age 15 and 16:

  • can work for eight hours on a Saturday
  • can work for eight hours on weekdays during school holidays
  • can only work for 35 hours per week during school holidays

When you cannot employ a child

You cannot employ a child:

  • in a cinema, theatre, discotheque, dance hall or night club (unless licensed to perform there)
  • to sell or deliver alcohol: except in sealed containers
  • to deliver milk
  • to deliver fuel oils
  • in a commercial kitchen
  • to collect or sort refuse
  • in any work which is more than three metres above ground level or, in the case of internal work, more than three metres above floor level
  • in employment involving harmful exposure to physical, biological or chemical agents
  • to collect money or to sell or canvass door to door, except under the supervision of an adult
  • in work involving exposure to adult material or in situations which are for this reason otherwise unsuitable for children
  • in telephone sales
  • in any slaughterhouse or in that part of any butcher's shop or other premises connected with the killing of livestock, butchery, or the preparation of carcasses or meat for sale
  • as an attendant or assistant in a fairground or amusement arcade or in any other premises used for the purpose of public amusement by means of automatic machines, games of chance or skill or similar devices.

Further information and advice

The guidance documents below highlight the following areas which are important for those responsible for employing children:

  • Health and safety
  • Hours of work
  • Work experience insurance
  • Confidentiality
  • Reporting of accidents
  • Payment and expenses
  • Child protection guidance
  • Risk assessment

Guidance leaflets