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Rights of young workers

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Introduction

The Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996 is designed to protect the health of young workers and ensure that work carried out during school years does not put young people’s education at risk. The Act sets minimum age limits for employment, rest intervals and maximum working hours and prohibits the employment of anyone under 18 on late-night work. The Act also requires employers to keep specified records for workers under 18.

Rules

The Act generally applies to employees under 18 years of age. It defines children as being aged under 16 and young persons refers to those aged 16 and 17. You can read more information in our document on working hours and rest breaks for children and young people.

Children

Under the Act, employers cannot employ children aged under 16 in regular full-time jobs. Children aged 14 and 15 may be employed as follows:

  • Doing light work during the school holidays – they must have at least 21 days off work during this time
  • As part of an approved work experience or educational programme where the work is not harmful to their health, safety or development
  • In film, cultural, advertising work or sport under licences issued by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation

Children aged 15 may do 8 hours a week light work in school term time. The maximum working week for children outside school term time is 35 hours, or up to 40 hours if they are on approved work experience.

Young people

The maximum working week for young people aged 16 and 17 is 40 hours, with a maximum of 8 hours a day. If a young person under 18 works for more than one employer, the combined daily or weekly hours of work cannot exceed the maximum number of hours allowed. Young persons are only permitted to work between 6am and 10pm. Any exceptions to this rule must be provided by regulation – see ‘Licensed premises’ below.

Licensed premises

The Protection of Young Persons Act 1996 (Employment in Licensed Premises) Regulations 2001 permit young people employed on general duties in a licensed premises to be required to work up to 11pm on a day that does not immediately precede a school day during a school term where the young person is attending school.

Employers who employ young persons to carry out general duties in a licensed premises must have regard to the Code of Practice concerning the Employment of Young Persons in Licensed Premises (pdf).

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