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Employing younger workers

There are a number of employment rights all workers have when they start a job, but young workers - those under 18 years old - have a few additional or different rights to protect them at work.

Download the new Acas guide pdf icon Employing younger workers [378kb] to help employers manage and support apprentices and young workers.

The guide has advice for employers on how to help young workers and apprentices with the transition from education to the world of work.

Working hours for young workers

The Working Time Regulations govern the hours most workers can work and, for young workers, provide a right to:

  • at least two consecutive days off per week
  • a daily rest break of 12 consecutive hours (usually the break between finishing work one day and starting work the next)
  • a 30 minute break if the shift lasts more than 4.5 hours
  • a limit of 8 hours of work per day and 40 hours of work per week.

Requirement to stay in education

In England only, young people are required to stay in education or training, at least part-time, until they are 18 years old. They are required to take part in education or training through either:

  • Full-time education or training, including college
  • Work-based learning, such as an apprenticeship
  • Working or volunteering for at least 20 hours a week while in part time education

It is the young worker's responsibility to ensure these requirements are met.

National Minimum Wage

Most workers over school leaving age will be entitled to receive the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage. Young workers must be paid the correct rate for their age. Apprentices who are under 19, or those who are 19 or over but in their first year of apprenticeship, have a separate set rate.

Working at night

The night period is the period between 10pm and 6am. For young workers this can be changed to 11pm to 7am in the contract of employment. Workers under 18 are not usually allowed to work at night, however, exceptions can apply in some circumstances.

Young workers may work between 10pm or 11pm to midnight and between 4am to 6 or 7am if they are employed in:

  • agriculture
  • retail trading
  • postal or newspaper deliveries
  • a catering business, hotel, public house, restaurant
  • a bakery.

Young workers may work throughout the night if they are employed in a hospital or similar place of work, or in areas such as, advertising, sporting or artistic activities. For example a child actor employed to work on a night shoot.

Young workers can only work at these times if:

  • the work is necessary to maintain continuity of service or production or there has been a surge in demand
  • there is no adult available to do the work
  • carrying out the work will not impact on the young worker's education or training.

Treating younger workers less favourably because of their age

It is unlawful to discriminate against employees, workers or job seekers because of their age. This includes young workers. There are four types of age discrimination.

  • Direct discrimination - treating someone less favourably because of their actual, or perceived, age.
  • Indirect discrimination - when a policy or practice applies to all workers, but disadvantages people of a particular age.
  • Harassment - unwanted conduct relating to age which an individual finds offensive or which makes them feel uncomfortable or intimidated.
  • Victimisation - unfair treatment of an employee who has made or supported a complaint about age discrimination.

Treating younger workers less favourably because of their age could lead to a formal complaint (also known as a grievances) being raised with management and/or a claim at an Employment Tribunals.

For more information, including a guide on how to prevent discrimination, go to our pages on Equality and discrimination.

Health & Safety

When employing workers under the age of 18, employers have the same responsibilities for their health and safety as they do for all workers.

Many young workers will be unfamiliar with risks and the behaviours expected of them. They may need additional help and training to allow them to carry out their work without putting themselves and others at risk. This is why age limits are in place on the use of some equipment and machinery such as fork lift trucks.