Are there any restrictions on hours of work for young workers?

If you are over the school leaving age (16) but younger than 18 you are covered by tougher regulations. You have different and better limits on working time and rights to breaks than older workers, which cannot be opted out of:

  • You cannot work more than 40 hours per week.
  • You cannot work at night.
  • You should get a continuous break of 12 hours every day (though this can be split in some special situations).
  • You should get a two day break every week. (If the nature of the job makes it unavoidable, a young worker’s weekly time off can be reduced to 36 hours, subject to them receiving compensatory rest.)
  • You should get a break of 30 minutes if your working day is more than four and a half hours.

Young workers may not ordinarily work at night between 10pm and 6am, or between 11pm and 7am, if their contract of employment provides for work after 10pm. However, exceptions apply in particular circumstances in the case of certain kinds of employment, as set out below.

Young workers may work throughout the night if they are employed in hospitals or similar establishments, or in cultural, artistic, sporting or advertising activities.

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

  • agriculture;
  • retail trading;
  • postal or newspaper deliveries;
  • a catering business;
  • a hotel, restaurant, pub/bar or similar establishment; or
  • a bakery.

The particular circumstances in which young workers may work these hours are that the work they are required to do is necessary to either:

  • maintain continuity of service or production, or
  • respond to a surge in demand for service or product, and that
  • there is no adult available to perform the task;
  • the employer ensures that the training needs of the young worker are not adversely affected; and
  • the young worker is allowed an equivalent period of compensatory rest.

Young workers must be adequately supervised where it is necessary for their protection.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.