Guide

Employing children and young people

Employing workers of compulsory school age

You cannot employ children under 13, except when they are involved in areas such as television, theatre or modelling. Children working in these areas will need a Child Performance Licence from the child's regional Education Authority (EA) office. In Northern Ireland, the EA was established under the Education Act Northern Ireland 2014 and became operational on 1 April 2015. It is a non-departmental body sponsored by the Department of Education. Find contact details for the EA's regional offices.

Apply for a Child Employment Permit.

Statutory rules govern the employment of school-age young people and must be adhered to, even if you only want to employ them to do a paper round. No one under 16 may be employed in manufacturing, on a licensed premise or any dangerous activity.

As noted above, in Northern Ireland, a young person can leave school on 30 June if they are aged 16 on or before 1 July of that year. If their 16th birthday falls on or after 2 July they have to wait until the end of the following academic year before they are eligible to leave.

Working conditions limitations

In Northern Ireland, young people aged under 15 may not do any work, paid or unpaid:

  • before 07:00 and after 19:00
  • for more than one hour before school opening time or before school closing time
  • for more than two hours on a Sunday or school day
  • for more than five hours on a Saturday or weekday outside term-time
  • for more than four hours on a Saturday without taking a break of at least one hour
  • for more than 12 hours in any week in which s/he is required to attend school (with a break of 1 hour after any continuous 3 hour period)
  • for more than 27 hours in any week during school holidays, and no more than five hours per day Monday to Saturday
  • in any occupations prohibited by local bylaws or other legislation (for example, in any industrial setting, pubs, betting shops, or in any work that may be harmful to their health, well-being or education)
  • without the written consent of their parents and an Employment Card issued by their local Education Authority

Young people aged between 15 and the minimum school-leaving age may not do any work, paid or unpaid:

  • before 07:00 and after 19:00
  • for more than one hour before school opening time and at any time between school opening and finishing time
  • for more than two hours on a Sunday or school day
  • for more than seven hours on a Saturday during term-time
  • for more than four hours without taking a break of at least one hour
  • in any occupations prohibited by local bylaws or other legislation (for example, in any industrial setting, pubs, betting shops, or in any work that may be harmful to their health, well-being or education)
  • for more than seven hours per day during school holidays, up to a maximum of 37 hours in any week
  • without the written consent of their parents and an Employment Card issued by their local Education Authority

In addition, young people must have a two-week break from any work during the school holiday in each calendar year. Read more on hours, rest breaks and the working week.

You must do a risk assessment before taking on school-age workers, or review your existing risk assessment. Read more on managing the risks in your business.

Education Authorities (EAs)

Your local EA might have its own rules affecting school-aged workers so it's important to check on these by-laws too.

You must apply to the child's local EA. They will require:

  • a separate application for each child worker
  • written parental consent from the child’s parent/guardian
  • two passport size photos of the child
  • 7 days notice to process the application

Find local EAs.

Statutory maternity and paternity pay

If a pregnant woman or an expectant father is legitimately employed before reaching the age of 16 and meets the qualifying conditions, they are eligible for statutory maternity pay (SMP) and statutory paternity pay (SPP).

To find out about qualifying conditions for SMP or SPP, see maternity leave and pay and paternity leave and pay.

For more information on eligibility to, calculating, paying and recovering statutory pay, see our section on maternity, paternity and adoption.

Child performance licences

Children and young people (from birth to the upper end of compulsory school age) participating in any kind of performance (whether paid or unpaid, for broadcast purposes or non-broadcast purposes) are safeguarded by legislation in Northern Ireland.

Working hours are strictly controlled and the 'employer/producer/director' must apply for a Child Performance Licence to the Education Authority (EA) in whose jurisdiction the child lives.

Child licence application forms can be requested from the local EA Child Protection Support Service for Schools (CPSSS) or from their websites. Find local EAs.

You must make an application to the child’s local EA. They will require:

  • a separate application for each child/young person
  • written parental consent from the child’s parent/guardian
  • two passport size photos of the child
  • evidence of the child’s age (copy of birth certificate or passport)
  • 30 days notice to process the application