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Protection of young people at work

To adopt minimum requirements in order to guarantee improvements in the health and safety of young workers.


Council Directive 94/33/EC of 22 June 1994 on the protection of young people at work.


The Directive applies to all young people under the age of 18 who have an employment contract or an employment relationship defined by the law in force in a Member State and/or subject to the law in force in a Member State.

The Member States may stipulate that the Directive shall not be applicable to occasional work or work carried out for a limited period in domestic service in a private household or to work in a family business which is not considered likely to harm, injure or endanger young people.

The Directive provides that the Member States shall take the necessary measures to prohibit the employment of children and shall ensure that the employment of adolescents is strictly controlled and protected under the conditions provided for in the Directive.

The Directive defines categories of young people as follows:

  • young people: young people under the age of 18;
  • children: young people under the age of 15 or who are still in full-time compulsory education in accordance with national legislation;
  • adolescents: young people between the ages of 15 and 18 who are no longer in full-time compulsory education in accordance with national legislation.

The Directive's main objective is to prohibit the employment of children.

However, the Directive allows the Member States to stipulate, subject to certain conditions, that the ban on the employment of children is not applicable to:

  • children employed for the purposes of cultural, artistic, sporting or advertising activities, subject to prior authorisation by the competent authority in each specific case;
  • children aged 14 years or over who work in an undertaking as part of a work/training scheme or traineeship, provided that this work is carried out in accordance with the requirements laid down by the competent authority;
  • children aged 14 years or over performing light work other than that referred to in the first point above ; however, children over 13 may perform light work for a limited number of hours per week in categories of employment defined in national legislation.

The Directive includes provisions relating to:

  • the employer's general obligations, such as protection of the health and safety of young people, assessment of the risks to young people associated with their work, assessment and monitoring of the health of young people, information about young people and children's legal representatives on the possible risks to their health and safety;
  • types of employment which must not be carried out by young people, such as work which exceeds the mental or physical capacities of young people, work involving harmful exposure to dangerous substances.

In addition, the Directive contains provisions relating to working hours, night work, rest periods, annual leave and rest breaks.

Each Member State is responsible for defining the measures to be taken in the event of infringement of the provisions of this Directive. These measures must be effective and proportionate to the offence.

The Directive contains a non-regression clause concerning the level of protection for young people.

The Directive provides for transition periods of varying lengths for Member States for which the application of this Directive poses significant problems. This is the case for the United Kingdom, which has a transition period of four years to apply some of the most important provisions of the Directive, i.e. until 22 June 2000.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Council Directive 94/33/EC



Official Journal L 216 of 20.08.1994


Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions on the application of Directive 94/33/EC on the protection of young people at work [COM(2004) 105 final].

The report concludes that in most Member States the legislation already made provision for the protection of young workers and the prohibition of child labour before the Directive was adopted. There were therefore no significant problems in transposing the Directive.

Report from the Commission on the effects of the transitional period granted to the United Kingdom concerning certain provisions of Council Directive 94/33/EC on the protection of young people at work [COM(2000)457 final].

Last updated: 14.04.2004
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