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Employment of school age children

Cornwall Council has a statutory duty to:

  • regulate
  • supervise
  • enforce legislation about

all aspects of Children in employment.

A child assisting in any trade or occupation carried on for a profit or gain is classed as employed. Even if they receive no payment for their labour.

It is important that anyone employing a child does so strictly according to the law.

  • No child under the age of 13 years can be employed under any circumstances.
  • A child having attained the age of 13 and until ceasing to be of compulsory school age may be employed providing such employment is within the law and that the employment will not be prejudicial to the health and well-being of the child or cause the child's education to suffer. Please take note of the hours of employment.
  • A child is of compulsory school age until the last Friday in June of the school year that they attain their 16th birthday.

Please be sure to read the age restrictions and working hours tab below for more information.

  • Children under the age of 13 years
    • cannot be employed under any circumstances
  • Children and young people aged 13 and 14
    • can only work for 2 hours on a school day, either 1 hour after 7am and before school commences and 1 hour after school ends and before 7pm, or for 2 hours after the end of school and before 7pm
    • Saturdays and school holidays (excluding Sunday) they can work for up to 5 hours per day, to a maximum of 25 hours per week. No earlier than 7am or later than 7pm.
    • They can only work for 2 hours on any Sunday. No earlier than 7am or later than 7pm.
  • Children and young people aged 15 and 16
    • can only work for 2 hours on a school day, either 1 hour after 7am and before the commencement of school and 1 hour after the end of school and before 7pm, or 2 hours after the end of school and before 7pm
    • Saturdays and school holidays (excluding Sundays) they can work for up to 8 hours per day, to a maximum of 35 hours per week. No earlier than 7am or later than 7pm.
    • They can only work for 2 hours on any Sunday. No earlier than 7am or later than 7pm.

Please note: During term time children can only work a maximum of 12 hours a week.

School-age children can engage in certain types of work under specific conditions.

They are allowed to;

  • deliver newspapers
  • perform in certain cultural, sporting, or advertising activities
  • work in specific sectors such as agriculture, modelling, and entertainment.

This is not an exhaustive list and the type of work will be checked when permits are applied for (please see tab 'Obtaining work permits').

Your Juvenile Employment Officer is always happy to advise what is permitted and their contact details can be found at the bottom of this page.

For prohibited work types please be sure to read the 'Prohibited employment' tab.

No child shall be employed in any of the following (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • in any work which is considered an ‘Industrial Undertaking.’ This includes work in a factory, warehouse or construction of any kind
  • in a cinema, theatre, discotheque, dance hall or night club. The only time this is OK is if it is in connection with a performance given entirely by children
  • to sell or deliver alcohol, except in sealed containers
  • to deliver milk
  • to deliver fuel oils
  • in a commercial kitchen
  • to collect or sort refuse
  • in any work which is more than 3 metres above ground level or, in the case of internal work, 3 metres above floor level
  • in employment involving harmful exposure to physical, biological or chemical agents
  • to collect money or to sell or canvas door to door, except under the supervision of an adult
  • in work involving exposure to adult material. This includes material deemed unsuitable for children
  • in telephone sales
  • in any slaughterhouse or in that part of any butcher shop or other premises connected with the killing of livestock, butchery or in the preparation of carcasses of meat for sale
  • as an attendant or assistant in a fairground or amusement arcade or in any other premises used for gambling
  • in the personal care of residents of any residential care home or nursing home unless under the supervision of a responsible adult

Working in a commercial kitchen

Specifically relevant to Cornwall and it’s tourism sector is the fact children cannot work within a commercial kitchen.

They cannot cook food or use ovens, fryers or other dangerous kitchen machinery.

There is a degree of interpretation within this whereby a juvenile can be issued a permit as a pot wash in a designated area of the kitchen and serve food and customers in catering businesses.

This would be checked when permits are applied for (see tab 'Obtaining work permits') and your Juvenile Employment Officer will be happy to advise what is permitted.

If you plan to employ school-age children, you must:

  • register them before the employment commences and
  • obtain work permits for each individual from Cornwall Council

Employed children can only start work once the work permit is received or they have consent to do so by the Juvenile Employment Officer.

If children do not have a work permit they will be considered as being employed illegally and importantly, they may not be covered by any form of insurance should they suffer an injury or have anything stolen (such as a bicycle used for newspaper deliveries) whilst being employed.

Applying for a work permit

The application process involves providing details about the type of work, working hours, and the employer's responsibilities regarding the child's education.

The employer should keep available for inspection by any officer of the authority, a record showing details of the child, occupation and hours in which the child is employed.

  • Children must be suitably dressed (clothing and footwear) for protection against the weather.
  • No child shall be employed in any work likely to cause injury, for instance heavy lifting.
  • The employment of children in the collection of money is not recommended and is strongly discouraged.
  • Employers shall ensure that the child shall have two consecutive weeks free from work during the school holidays.

It is an employer’s responsibility to register any child they employ with the local authority and to apply for a work permit.

Apply for a Work Permit

Refusal or withdrawal of a work permit

The local authority may refuse, or revoke a work permit if:

  • the child does not attend at school
  • they are frequently late for school
  • their school work suffers because of the employment
  • their health suffers because of the employment
  • the employment is, or becomes, unlawful

The welfare and safety of school-age children should always be a top priority.

As an employer, you have a duty to provide a safe working environment and protect young employees from harm.

This includes conducting a risk assessment specific to their age group, providing adequate supervision, and ensuring they have appropriate training and protective equipment when necessary.

The following link is useful when considering employing young people in your workplace.

Young workers - guidance for employers

While school-age children are entitled to certain employment rights, such as the right to be safe and not discriminated against, they are not typically subject to the same employment contract requirements as adults.

However, it is advisable to have written agreements outlining the terms and conditions of their employment, including working hours, pay rates, and any agreed-upon benefits.

Employing school-age children in Cornwall can be a positive experience for both your business and the young individuals involved.

By familiarising yourself with UK employment laws and following the guidelines outlined in this short piece, you can ensure that their employment is legal, safe, and enriching.

Remember to consult Cornwall Council (details can be found at the bottom of this page) for up-to-date information or advice.

Parents should ensure that if their child is employed, such employment is strictly within the law.

Sadly there is always risk of a child suffering injury arising from part time employment. Whilst most employers of children are reputable and carry insurance cover, there is always the possibility of a child suffering injury.

In circumstances where the employment is outside the law this causes great difficulty insofar as compensation is concerned. If the child is not registered with the authority and does not have a work permit it is possible that they will not be covered by any insurance.

Parents wishing to ensure that their child is correctly registered for employment and working within the law should contact the child employment officer.

Any money paid to a child by an employer is not governed by law and is a matter between the child, their parents and the employer.

We monitor and supervise children in employment, but from time to time it is found that children are working illegally without our knowledge. This is the reason why employers, parents and children should ensure that the various legislation regarding child employment is strictly adhered to.

Children using cycles for newspaper delivery should ensure that at all times the cycle is safely maintained and lights are fitted and working. It is strongly recommended that children wear cycle helmets. It is also recommended that the cycle should be insured.

Advice and further information

Further information regarding all aspects of child employment may be obtained from the Child Employment Officer.

Cornwall Council is a member of the National Network for Child Employment and Entertainment.

Please contact us immediately if you think a child or children may be:

  • employed illegally
  • employed at an unsuitable or dangerous workplace

Report Juvenile Employment Concerns Form 

The contact details for our Juvenile Employment and Safeguarding Officer can also be found near the bottom of this page.

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