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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 - usually 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.

Key points:

  • Young workers are entitled to at least 48 hours of rest each week.
  • A daily rest break of 12 consecutive hours (the break between finishing work one day and starting work the next).
  • A rest break of at least 30 minutes if the working day lasts more than 4.5 hours.
  • Young workers normally will not work more than 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week.
  • Young workers don't normally work at night - however, there are some exceptions.
  • Workers aged 16-17 are entitled to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage at the relevant rate.

England only

Young people who do not hold a level 3 educational training 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 school, or college.
  • Work-based learning, such as Apprenticeships or part-time education, or training, or volunteering more than 20 hours a week.
  • The education or training can be work-based.

National Minimum Wage

Most workers over school leaving age will be entitled to receive the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage. Young people must be paid the rate for their age, this includes, 16-17 year olds who are above school leaving age but under 18, and apprentices under 19.

Working time regulations

Normally younger workers (16 & 17 year olds) are entitled to 12 hours of uninterrupted rest within a 24 hour period in which they work. If a shift last longer than 4.5 hours then they will be entitled to a break of 30 minutes.

They are entitled to at least 48 hours of rest each week. This should be uninterrupted rest. These workers do not normally work for more than 40 hours per week.

All workers are entitled to at least the statutory annual leave allowance of 5.6 of their working week.

Night work limits

Workers under 18 are not usually allowed to work at night, however, exceptions can apply in some circumstances.

Younger workers may work during the night if they are employed in a hospital or similar places of work, or in areas such as, advertising, sporting or cultural activities.

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

  • Agriculture.
  • Retail trading.
  • Postal or newspaper deliveries.
  • A catering business, hotel, public house, restaurant etc.
  • A bakery.

They may work when the work is necessary to, maintain continuity of service or production, or respond to demand for services or products.


The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees, job seekers and trainees because of their Age discrimination, 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 which applies to all workers, but disadvantages people of a particular age.
  • Harassment - when unwanted conduct related to age creates an offensive environment for that individual.
  • Victimisation - unfair treat of an employee who has made or supported a complaint about age discrimination.

Health & Safety

When employing young 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 often age limits are in place on the use of some equipment and machinery such as fork lift trucks.