Education is compulsory - school is optional

Child Employment

The following information is accurate but you should consider reading in full the latest guidance from DCSF on child employment. Many local authorities have additional by-laws regulating the work of children. If you/your children are considering working, you should contact your local authority, usually the Education Welfare Service, who will be able to give you advice relevant to your area. All relevant legislation relates to children attending schools; again you should check with your local authority if they have by-laws which affect home educated young people working.


As well as employment in its normal meaning, the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 states that a person who assists in a trade or occupation carried on for profit is considered as employed even though he or she may receive no payment. So the rules in the Children and Young Persons Act will apply where, for example, children help their parents in a shop without receiving any payment. In its 2009 Guidance on the Employment of Children" DCSF says that it "considers that any occupation where the aim is to make a surplus would be considered as a trade or occupation carried on for profit so, in DCSF’s view, unpaid work at a charity shop would count as employment, but not, for example, unpaid work at a youth club."


All young people must be registered with the Local Education Authority. The Employer needs to contact the Education Welfare Service to obtain the correct forms.


The EC Directive on Protection of Young People at Work" (94/33/EC) states that in general children may not be employed until they are aged at least 15. This is reduced to 14 for light work and there are further exceptions "for the purposes of performance in cultural, artistic, sports or advertising activities" - see section on Children in Entertainment below). Legislation states that work should take place outside of the school day; therefore it could be interpreted that home educated young people should not work during what would normally be their study time. However, working hours should be after 7 am and before 7 pm.

13 and 14 years old
Working Time Working Hours
'School Days' Maximum of 2 hrs per day outside of 'school' hrs    
Saturdays Maximum of 4 hrs
Sundays Maximum of 2 hrs
'School Holidays' Maximum of 4 hrs per day, 20 hrs per week
15 and 16 years old  
Working Time Working Hours
'School Days' Maximum of 2 hrs per day outside of 'school' hrs
Saturdays Maximum of 8 hrs
Sundays Maximum of 2 hrs
'School Holidays' Maximum of 8 hrs per day, 30 hrs per week

The 2009 Guidance on the Employment of Children states that "In the case of a restriction which relates to the school day or a day on which the child has to go to school the Act does not deal with the position of home educated children" so it is important that you agree with your local authority any interpretation of hours to be worked.

Jobs/Working Environment

A child under the school leaving age may only be employed to do ‘light work’. This is:

work which on account of the inherent nature of the tasks which it involves and the particular conditions under which they are performed is not likely to be harmful to the health, safety or development of children and is not such as to be harmful to their attendance at school or to their participation in work experience, or their capacity to benefit from the instruction received or the experience gained.

In the context of newspaper delivery the National Federation of Retail Newsagents have issued safety guidelines for news deliverers which recommends a maximum weight of 9kg (20 lbs) for young people.

There are some jobs and working environments where young people may not be employed.

Jobs Not Allowed   Working Environments Not Allowed
Selling alcohol   Billiard/Gaming Halls
Selling on the street   Amusements Arcades
Mobile Food Bar Work   Betting Shops
Taking bets   Fairgrounds
Using dangerous machinery   Markets
Selling or Canvassing door to door   Racecourse/tracks
Any job involving gambling   Clubs and Pubs
Any job that may cause injury   Kitchens/Chip Shops
Photographic Modelling (unless licensed)   Factories
    Slaughter Houses
    Theatre/Cinema/Disco (unless licensed)

Again however it is important to check the byelaws made by the local authority where the employment is to take place as there are variations among authorities. For example, some authorities’ byelaws may allow agricultural or horticultural work without restriction. Other authorities’ byelaws may allow light agricultural or horticultural work on an occasional basis under the direct supervision of the child’s parent. (NB: some LAs have old byelaws that still allow a child aged 10 or over on an occasional basis in light agricultural or horticultural work under the direct supervision of the child’s parent but a change in the law in 2000 means that DCSF believes any work of any child under 13 - save the exceptions mentioned below - is illegal).


There is no minimum payment for young people. The employer will set the rate of pay and it is for the young person and his/her family to determine whether this is fair.

What about breaks and holidays?

A child may not be employed for more than four hours without at least one hour’s break. DCSF interprets this to mean that once a child has been working for more than four hours the child must have the hour’s break. It makes no difference if the child has already had shorter breaks within that four-hour period. A child under the school leaving age must have a two-week break from any employment in each year. ‘Year’ here is a calendar year, not a school year. This break must be taken during the school holidays.


Although this is not normally considered to be employment as it is usually conducted without any form of employment contract and is often unpaid, and the 2009 Guidance on the Employment of Children" recommends that parents should consider a range of factors before allowing their child to babysit:

  1. A babysitter could be at risk of harm from the parents for whom they are babysitting.
  2. There is no legal minimum age for babysitting, but if a parent chooses to leave their child with a babysitter who is under 16 the parent remains legally responsible for ensuring that their child comes to no harm – they cannot delegate their parental responsibility. If a child is harmed whilst with a babysitter, the police can prosecute the child’s parent for negligence. Parents can be prosecuted for ‘wilful neglect’ if they leave their child unsupervised "in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health" (Section 1 of the Children and Young Person’s Act 1933).

Work Experience

The 2009 Guidance on the Employment of Children" says that some of the rules set out in the guidance do not apply where the child’s employment is work experience. The work experience must however be "arranged by the local authority or by the governing body of a school acting on behalf of the local authority" if these rules are to be relaxed. This relaxation of rules is contained in section 560 of the Education Act 1996. The work experience must be in the last two school years during which the child is of compulsory school age.

None of the restrictions relating to hours apply, but there are other rules, which normally apply to 16 and 17 year-olds rather than children under the school leaving age. Children on work experience should normally only work for no more than eight hours each day and 40 hours each week. In some cases this will be a legal requirement under the Working Time Regulations 1998. In other cases, although it may not be a legal requirement, DCSF would recommend that children on work experience should not work longer than these hours.

Children in Entertainment


The legislation relating to children in entertainment concerns the health, proper treatment and education of children and applies to newborn babies up to when a child is no longer of compulsory school age. The primary legislation come from the Children and Young Persons Act of 1933 and 1963 (with later amendments). The 1963 Act allowed the Secretary of State to make Regulations that prescribe conditions to be met with respect to children taking part in performances. These Regulations are entitled The Children (Performance) Regulations 1968 (with later amendments). Regulation 10 is particularly concerned with Education.


The term entertainment includes:

  • Taking part in a performance where the public pay to have access
  • Any performance on licensed premises (hotel, public house, etc)
  • Any broadcast performance
  • Any performance not included above but included in a programme service
  • Any performance which is being recorded for use in a broadcast, programme service or film
  • Taking part in modelling or sport for which the child or any other person receives payment.

The first five items are termed performances and also include certain rehearsals for performances. The final item is termed an activity, but they are all 'entertainment'.

Child's Entertainment Licence

Children taking part in entertainment require an Entertainment Licence issued by the child's Local Education Authority and applied for by the person who is responsible for the production or activity. This person is called the Licence Holder and is named on the child's licence. The licence relates to a named child and allows that child to take part in a particular performance or activity.

There are three exceptions to the requirement to obtain a licence. The first one relates to school children taking part in school productions, so not applicable to home educated young people. The other two exceptions are:

  • When the production is organised by an amateur group such as a youth club or amateur operatic society. The organisers of the group should apply and obtain permission from the Local Education Authority before a child can appear in their production.
  • When the child is taking part in no more than four performances in a six month period.

Whenever an Entertainment Licence is issued, there is a legal requirement that the child must be looked after (chaparoned) either by the child's own parent (parent cannot delegate this responsibility to any other person) or by a Matron who has been approved by the child's Local Education Authority. [Regulation 12(1)]

There may be, included in the licence, a condition to the effect that they must receive tuition during the event. The Licence Holder must provide a tutor who has been approved by the Local Education Authority, and a suitable place, approved by the Local Education Authority (in whose area the event is taking place) to receive the tuition. [Regulation14(1) & (2)]. The amount of tuition a child must receive is below.

If the child's performance is a recorded performance, and any period of recording on location exceeds one week, then, during each complete period of four weeks (or any period of less than four weeks but over one week) the number of tuition hours may be aggregated over that period. For the hours to be deemed satisfactory, the child:

  • Must not receive less than six hours tuition during each weekly period
  • Must not receive more than a maximum of five hours tuition on any one day
  • May be taught on days other than 'normal' school days

[Regulation 10 (4)]


Education Otherwise frequently receives enquiries from parents about home education, often relating to how they should engage with their local authority. This has been particularly concerning for parents since the publication of the Elective Home Education Departmental Guidance for Local Authorities (EHEDGLA), in April 2019.

Education Otherwise, in conjunction with the Centre for Personalised Education charity, has obtained advice from a Queen's Counsel (or QC, a title given to a senior barrister) in order to help us provide accurate information to parents. The QC we instructed specialises in public law and education law, and is a former part-time Chair of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, and a current member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission's panel of counsel. The QC also trains lawyers and others in education and public law.

Education Otherwise is revising its information in line with the advice received from the QC. The revised information will be posted on the website when ready. In the meantime, but also as a matter of good practice, parents should of course always obtain their own legal advice if they have concerns over any issues.