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Last checked 13/07/2018

Young workers

As of 30 March 2019, all EU law will cease to apply to the UK, unless a ratified withdrawal agreement establishes another date, or the European Council and the UK decide unanimously to extend the two-year negotiation period. For more information about the legal repercussions for businesses:

Age limits

You cannot employ young people under the age of 15. The age limit may be higher in EU countries where compulsory full-time schooling continues after age 15.

However, you can employ children under 15 in cultural, artistic, sports or advertising activities, as long as the competent authority has given prior authorisation.

You can employ children between 14 and 15 years old as part of a work/training scheme or a work-experience scheme. Children who are at least 14 (in certain cases 13) can also perform light work.

Risks, safety and health at work

As an employer, you have to take the necessary measures to protect the health and safety of young people and ensure they are implemented based on a risk assessment of their work. This must be undertaken before the young people start working for you.

You cannot employ young people for the following types of work:

  • work which is beyond their physical or psychological capacity
  • work involving exposure to harmful products, like dangerous chemicals or radiation
  • work where the risk of accidents is considered to be high and which young people might not recognise or avoid because they do not have sufficient attention to safety or they lack of experience or training
  • work in which there is a risk to health from extreme cold, heat, noise or vibration
  • work involving risky processes (explosions, poisonous substances, high-voltage electrical hazards etc.)

Some EU countries allow employers to hire young workers if the jobs are required to be undertaken as part of their vocational training. As an employer, you must guarantee that a competent person supervises their work to ensure their health and safety is protected.

You must inform young workers about the possible risks of their job and all measures adopted concerning their safety and health. If your young workers are under 15, you must inform their legal representative.

If the assessment of the hazards to young people in connection with their work shows a risk to their safety, physical or mental health or development, you must offer them an appropriate free assessment of health and capacity before their work starts.

General rules on annual rest and breaks

When you hire young people, you must guarantee them a break of at least 30 minutes if they work longer than 4.5 hours.

If children attend compulsory full-time schooling, you must ensure that they have a period free of any work included in the school holidays (as provided for in the applicable national rules).

Working time, night work and rest periods for children under 15

You must follow strict rules when employing children under the age of 15; these differ depending on the type of work/training scheme undertaken.

The maximum working times are:

  • 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week for a combined work/training scheme or an on-site work-experience scheme
  • 2 hours on a school day and 12 hours a week (if national legislation allows) for work performed in term-time outside fixed school hours
  • 7 hours a day and 35 hours a week for a period of at least one week when school is closed. If children are 15 or older, they can work up to a maximum of 8 hours
  • 7 hours a day and 35 hours a week for light work performed by children no longer subject to compulsory full-time schooling under national law

You cannot employ children under 15 to work between 8pm and 6am.

For each 24-hour period you must guarantee a minimum rest period of 14 consecutive hours and a minimum of 2 days rest for each 7-day period (consecutively, if possible).

Working time, night work and rest periods for teenagers between 15 and 18

If you hire teenagers between 15 and 18 who are no longer subject to compulsory full-time schooling under national law, they can work up to 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week.

Teenage employees cannot work between 10pm and 6am or between 11pm and 7 am. Some EU countries allow derogations to these limits under exceptional conditions related to the nature of the work (shipping or fisheries sectors, armed forces or police, hospitals or similar establishments, cultural, artistic, sports or advertising activities).

For each 24-hour period you must guarantee a minimum rest period of 12 consecutive hours and a minimum of 2 days for each 7-day period (consecutively, if possible).

If national derogations allow it, you might not have to give these rest periods to your young employees working in the following sectors:

  • shipping or fisheries sector
  • armed forces or police
  • hospitals or similar establishment
  • agriculture
  • tourism industry or in the hotel, restaurant and cafe sector

If you hire teenagers whose work is split up over the day, derogations to the minimum rest periods may also be possible.

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