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Child employment

Child work permit


Employers must apply for a permit from Southwark Council in order to legally employ a child of compulsory school age.

A child includes any person who has not yet reached compulsory school leaving age. This is the last Friday in June in the school year in which the young person reaches the age of 16.

It’s illegal to employ children under the age of 13 unless they're taking part in a paid performance (eg a play or film), sport or modelling and you've obtained a child performance licence from the relevant local authority.


A child aged 13 and above may be employed in light work only, in one or more of the following specified categories:

  • agricultural or horticultural work
  • delivery of newspapers, journals and other printed material, and collecting payment for same, subject to the provisions of byelaw 3(I)
  • shop work, including shelf stacking
  • hairdressing salons
  • office work
  • car washing by hand in a private residential setting
  • in a café or restaurant (but must not enter into a commercial kitchen)
  • in riding stables
  • domestic work in hotels and other establishments offering accommodation

What is ‘light work’?

The law defines light work as work which, on account of the inherent nature of the tasks which it involves and the particular conditions under which they're performed:

  • is not likely to be harmful to the safety, health or development of children; and
  • is not such as to be harmful to their attendance at school or to their participation in work experience or their capacity to benefit from the instruction received or the experience gained

What types of employment are prohibited?

  • no children may work in commercial kitchens, amusement arcades, night clubs, cinemas, discos, slaughterhouses, deliver milk, serve alcohol, or cigarettes, or provide personal care in residential homes or day centers
  • they must not be exposed to harmful substances or dangerous machinery, or lift heavy objects
  • they must not work in street trading (except in official markets) or selling or collecting money door to-door

What hours can a child work?

During term time:

You may only employ a person of school age between 7am and 7pm on school days, but not during school hours.

Aged 13 and 14 - maximum 17 hours per week

  • school days: 2 hours only
  • Saturdays: 5 hours only
  • Sundays: 2 hours only

Aged 15 and 16 (until school leaving age) - maximum 20 hours per week

  • school days: 2 hours only
  • Saturdays: 8 hours only
  • Sundays: 2 hours only

During school holidays:

The child must have a two week break in the year, free of work or school. You may only employ a person of school age between 7am and 7pm.

Aged 13 and 14 - maximum 25 hours per week

  • Monday to Saturday: 5 hours a day
  • Sundays: 2 hours

Aged 15 and 16 (until school leaving age) - maximum 35 hours per week

  • Monday to Saturday: 8 hours per day
  • Sundays: 2 hours

How much does a permit cost?

A permit is free.

Fines and penalties

All employment, which is not registered and for which no employment permit has been issued, is illegal.

If you fail to obtain a work permit for a child that you employ, you may be fined up to £1,000.

Apply for a permit

You can apply for a child work permit by downloading the application form (PDF, 66kb).

Any changes to a child’s employment terms will require a new permit to be issued.

Please return completed work permit applications to:

  • Southwark Council
    Education Access 0-25
    4th Floor Hub 2
    PO Box 64529
    SE1P 5LX

Page last updated: 28 February 2023


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