Employment Law

How old do I need to be to start work?

Part-time work

There are national laws that state at what age young people are allowed to start work.

Children are not allowed to work:

  • In places like a factory or industrial site
  • During school hours
  • Before 7am or after 7pm
  • For more than one hour before school (unless local bylaws allow it)
  • For more than 4 hours without taking a break of at least 1 hour
  • In any work that may be harmful to their health, well-being or education
  • Without having a 2-week break from any work during the school holidays in each calendar year

The youngest age a child can work part-time is 13, except children involved in areas like:

  • Television
  • Theatre
  • Modelling

Children working in these areas will need a performance licence.

Term time rules

During term time children can only work a maximum of 12 hours a week. This includes:

  • A maximum of 2 hours on school days and Sundays
  • A maximum of 5 hours on Saturdays for 13 to 14-year-olds, or 8 hours for 15 to 16-year-olds

School holiday rules

During school holidays 13 to 14-year-olds are only allowed to work a maximum of 25 hours a week. This includes:

  • A maximum of 5 hours on weekdays and Saturdays
  • A maximum of 2 hours on Sunday

During school holidays 15 to 16-year-olds can only work a maximum of 35 hours a week. This includes:

  • A maximum of 8 hours on weekdays and Saturdays
  • A maximum of 2 hours on Sunday

There are also local rules...

Local bylaws list the jobs that children cannot do. If a job is on this list, a child under the minimum school leaving age cannot do this work.

Local bylaws may also have other restrictions on working hours, conditions of work and the type of employment.

Contact your local council’s education department or education welfare service for more information.

Full-time work

Children can only start full-time work once they’ve reached the minimum school leaving age - they can then work up to a maximum of 40 hours a week.

In England, a young person must be in part-time education or training until they’re 18.

Work Experience

Work experience is a fantastic opportunity to show what you are capable of doing, it looks good on your CV and is valued by employers. Always think of any part time work as an opportunity to develop your skills, build your self-confidence as well as earning some money. Employers do value these experiences as they show motivation, self-discipline and a willingness to work.

You need to decide what it is you want out of it:

  • Do you want to find out more about a particular career area or specific job?
  • Do you want a chance to enhance your CV when applying for a job or course?
  • Do you want to see what working life is like?

4 great reasons to do work experience

  • It builds your self-confidence and allows you to show an employer you have the right attitude to work and that you are flexible, enthusiastic and willing to learn.
  • It helps you decide if the career path you have chosen is right for you and you will have the opportunity to network with employers. 
  • It can give you experience of using skills which you can mention on your CV.
  • It gives you a chance to feel what it is like to be a worker, not a student.

Doing work experience virtually

In 2020-21 it is likely that many students will be doing their work experience online.

Although, this will be a bit different to actually being in a work place, having a virtual experience can have other advantages - it could be anywhere in the world from the comfort of your armchair!

Where would I find a virtual work experience?

  • Your school/college parents/carers might have ideas of companies which could offer these opportunities. 
  • Look at company websites to see if virtual experiences are advertised or find a ley contact and ask them by email.
  • Think about the companies near to where you live and send them an email request.

Types of work experience

Block placement (Y10, 12 and college students) 

  • Block work experience is a week or two with an employer where they will put a programme together for you and you will complete a work experience diary.

One day per week placement (Y12 and course related)

  • This type of work experience is generally linked to a specific course you are completing but does not have to be.  Again you will have a programme for your placement and will be asked to write a diary of your time with the employer(s).

Work shadowing

  • When there are specific reasons why you cannot actually do the job-role work, for example if the job requires specialist skills, you might get to 'shadow' someone who is doing the job. This may relate to some jobs in medicine, engineering and construction.

Internships (paid and unpaid)

  • Internships can be a great way of developing your skills and adding experience to your CV – usually anything from a few weeks to a few months. 


  • These are advertised on the National Apprenticeship Service website and last for 6 weeks to 6 months. They are unpaid and are intended to support you with progression into an apprenticeship.
  • Although unpaid, employers are encouraged to support your transport and meal costs if they are able. 


There are many local opportunities to volunteer, and provide a range of benefits including:

  • Try a different area of work
  • Learn new skills
  • Develop skills and experiences you can include on your CV
  • Show an employer you are proactive
  • Build networks to help you find the career you really want

Where to find work experience

  • Start by speaking to people you know – teachers, family, friends, neighbours.  They could know someone who could offer you a placement or offer one themselves.
  • Contact employers. You can do this by going to jobs and careers fairs that are advertised or by getting in touch by letter, email, phone or in person. Make sure you create a good impression, always be polite and leave your contact details. If you are speaking to someone face to face smile and keep eye contact.
  • Many employers offer work experience through application processes on their websites so look out for these.

How to make the most of your work experience

Demonstrate and develop your skills

  • Use the opportunity to practice and develop your skills in a real situation. When applying for jobs or courses later talk about the skills you used on your work experience as employers will value your ability to demonstrate you have used your skills. Make sure you add your work experience to your CV ready for applications for jobs, college courses and university.

Help decide your career pathway  - is it right for you?

  • Work experience can help you decide whether a job area is for you. You might find your work experience confirms that job is exactly what you want to do in the future or if not, then at least you know and can look at other careers.

Build a network

  • It is good to keep in contact with employers you have worked with as there could be opportunities in the future to work for them or they could recommend you to another employer.

Want to know more about employability skills? 

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