Jobs children can be employed to work in at specific ages

When establishing whether a child at a certain age is to be employed in any form of job it is imperative first to distinguish is what is meant by the term child.

What definitions will I need to be aware of when considering employing children to work in my business?

The following definitions must be taken into account when wishing to employ children or young workers as part of your business:

  •       Child
  •       Compulsory school age
  •       Young worker


A child is any person who is not over compulsory school age.

Compulsory School Age

Compulsory school age starts at five and ends at sixteen – a person will cease to be deemed a child when over compulsory school age.

Young Worker

A young worker is defined as anyone between the ages of fifteen and eighteen and who is over compulsory school age.

At what age can a child be employed in any form of work?

When a child reaches the age of 14 they are permitted to be employed in any form of work. At no younger than 14 can a child be employed in work.

Can children younger than 14 be employed in some forms of work?

It is not illegal for children below the age of 14, who are at least 13-years-old to be employed in certain roles. This enables children of that age to earn small amount as pocket money by doing such jobs as delivering newspapers.

Accordingly, children who have reached the age of 13 can be employed in the following:

  •       Agricultural of horticultural work
  •       Delivery of newspapers, magazine and leaflets
  •       Shop work – this can include shelf stacking
  •       Work in hair salons
  •       Certain forms of office work – this however cannot include an office attached to a factory
  •       Washing cars by hand in a private residential setting
  •       Work in a café or a restaurant – this however cannot include work in a commercial kitchen
  •       Work in riding stables
  •       Domestic work in hotels or other forms of establishment offering accommodation

What work are children over at the age of 14 allowed to undertake?

Children over the age of 14 are able to undertake light work only.

What is meant by light work?

Light work is taken to mean work which on account of the inherent nature of the tasks which it involves at the particular conditions under which the task is performed is not likely to be harmful to the health, safety or development of children and is not such as harmful to their attendance at school or their participation in work experience in accordance with section 560 of the Education Act, or their capacity to benefit from instruction received.

Are there any types of employment whereby children are prohibited to work in?

There are certain forms of employment whereby, children of any age are prohibited to work. They are as follows:

  • In a cinema – except in connection with a performance given entirely by children
  • In a discotheque, dance hall or night-club – except in connection with a performance given entirely by children
  • To sell or deliver alcohol – except where the alcohol is in sealed containers
  • To deliver milk
  • To deliver fuel oils
  • To work in a commercial kitchen
  • To collect or sort refuse
  • To work in any job which is more than three metres above ground level, or in the case of work which happens indoors, work which is more than three metres above floor
  • To work in any employment which involves exposure to physical, biological or chemical agents
  • To work collecting money or to sell canvas door to door – except under the supervision of an adult
  • To work in employment which involves exposure to adult material or in situations which are for this reason otherwise unsuitable to children
  • To work in telephone sales
  • To work in any slaughterhouse or in part of any butcher’s shop connected with the killing of livestock, butchery or the preparation of carcasses or meat for sale
  • To work as an attendant or assistant in a fairground or amusement arcade or in any other premises used for the purpose of public amusement by means of automatic machines, games of chance or skill or similar devices
  • To work in the personal care of residents of any residential care home or nursing home
  • To be employed in street trading – this applies subject to any local education authority bye-laws which can allow children over the age of 14 to be employed in street trading by their parents.
About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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