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Employment of school age children

Child Employment in Cornwall

Cornwall Council has a statutory duty to regulate, supervise and enforce legislation with respect to all aspects of the employment of children within the county.

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A child assisting in any trade or occupation carried on for a profit or gain is deemed to be employed even if they receive no payment for their labour.

It is important that any child who is employed does so strictly according to the law.

At the beginning of the pandemic we temporarily suspended child employment arrangements, along with many other authorities in England.

However, as the situation has changed and government guidance has been updated, we have reviewed our position. Suspension of child employment arrangements are now being lifted and businesses can apply for work permits, as long as they meet clear criteria to ensure the child's wellbeing is safeguarded and the child is able to work in safe conditions.

We will continue to make decisions taking into account our safeguarding responsibilities and ensuring the safety and welfare of young people in Cornwall.

COVID-19 related documents

As a local authority our duty is to ensure that children are not undertaking employment tasks that may be harmful to their health, safety and welfare.

In order to satisfy ourselves that any risks posed by employment of children have been mitigated, we are requesting additional information from employers.

Work permit applications at this time will only be considered when they are accompanied by the documentation detailed below.

  1. A risk assessment that contains information directly related to Covid-19 and the possible risks to employees.  There is a specific Covid-19 risk assessment template available below which may help you. All risks must be thoroughly explored and mitigated. There must be a risk assessment completed for each child.
  2. A signed code of conduct document detailing your expectations of do’s and don’ts for each child.  There is a work permit code of conduct available below. This should consider social distancing measures, use of PPE where appropriate, guidance on handwashing and what should happen if a child is exposed to someone who has or is displaying symptoms of Covid-19. We would also expect to see any role specific advice and guidance for child employees taking into consideration their age, understanding and experience.
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All documents should be submitted electronically to If you require any assistance completing this, please contact us. No child should work until it has been agreed by the local authority. 

  • 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.

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

  • in a cinema, theatre, discotheque, dance hall or night club except 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 meters above ground level or, in the case of internal work, 3 meters 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 or in situations which are for this reason otherwise 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 the purpose of public amusement by means of automatic machines, games of chance or skill or similar devices
  • in the personal care of residents of any residential care home or nursing home unless under the supervision of a responsible adult
  • Children under the age of 13 years
    • cannot be employed under any circumstances
  • Children and young people aged 13 and under 15
    • 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
    • They can only work for 2 hours on any Sunday
  • 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
    • They can only work for 2 hours on any Sunday

NB During the week that children are required to attend at school, they can only work up to a maximum of 12 hours per week, regardless of age.

A person employing a child shall register the child with the local authority within one week of the employment beginning. Forms can be obtained from the child's school and returned to the Child Employment Officer.  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.

  • No child shall be employed in any work unless they are 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.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has set up the Speak Up, Stay Safe - British Safety Council campaign for employers taking on young people starting summer jobs.  Please ensure that you are familiar with this when employing young people.

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

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 Headteacher or their deputy should sign the work permit application form if satisfied that the employment does not affect the child's education.

There are several types of employment that children are prohibited from undertaking. These are listed on the work permit application form.

It must be pointed out that all children who are employed must have a work permit. If not they are being employed illegally and, more 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.

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 cycle helmets should be worn when the cycle is being ridden. It is also recommended that the cycle should be insured should it be stolen.

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.