If you want to employ a child of statutory school age you will need to obtain a work permit for that child from the local authority where your business is based. It’s illegal to employ children under the age of 13 unless they are taking part in a paid performance (e.g., a play or film), sport or modelling and you have obtained a child performance licence from the relevant local authority. A child ceases to be of statutory school age on the last Friday in June in the school year in which they reach 16.

The issuing of a work permit is to safeguard young people and ensure they are not exploited or exposed to hazardous situations. If a child is working without a child employment permit, there's a risk that the employer will not be insured against accidents involving the child.

Types of work

Only certain types of work are acceptable. These include, but are not limited to the following:

  • delivery of newspapers, journals and other printed material;
  • agricultural or horticultural work;
  • in shops, including shelf stacking;
  • in hairdressing salons;
  • office work;
  • car washing by hand in a private residential setting;
  • in a café or restaurant;
  • in riding stables;
  • domestic work in hotels and other establishments offering accommodation.

 Examples of areas in which a child may not be employed include: 

  • in a cinema, theatre, discotheque, dance hall or nightclub, except in a performance given entirely by children or under a Child Performance licence
  • 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 or floor level;
  • in work 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 purposes of public amusement by means of automatic machines, games of chance or skill or similar devices;
  • in the personal care of residents of any residential care home or nursing home unless under the supervision of an adult.

How to apply:

  • Employers are responsible for obtaining a work permit. To apply complete a work permit form. Employers should complete and return the form within one week of employing the child.
  • Work permits are issued in connection with a particular company and are not transferable.

Further information

There is a range of leaflets about child employment or you can contact us for advice.

Education welfare service