Employment of Children

Guidance Notes

Properly structured and regulated part time work can help children's development and preparation for working life - as long as there is no risk to their health, development or education.

National legislation sets out various requirements to ensure this and to ensure the safety of children in the work place eg by restricting the number of hours for which children may work. In addition, local authorities are required to have Employment of Children Byelaws which include, among other things, details of work which children may or may not do.

If an employer wishes to employ a child (i.e. anyone under Minimum School Leaving Age 1) they have to satisfy themselves that the proposed employment satisfies all of the legal requirements. They must also have an employment permit for the child which has been issued by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. In cases of doubt employers should seek independent legal advice.


Summer leaving date

  • If a child reaches the age of 16 on or after 1 March but before 1 October following, he or she can leave on 31 May.

Winter leaving date

  • If a child reaches the age of 16 on or after 1 October but before 1 March next, he or she can leave on the winter leaving date.


Children aged 13

Under the Comhairle's Byelaws, children aged 13 can only be employed in light work in one or more of the following specific categories:

  • agricultural or horticultural work;
  • delivery of newspapers, journals and other printed material (but they need to be supervised by an adult if they collect money);
  • shop work (including shelf stacking), hairdressing salons, offices, cafes and restaurants or riding stables;
  • car washing by hand in a private residential setting; or
  • domestic work in hotels and other establishments offering accommodation.

Children aged 14 and over can

  • do any light work (including all the types mentioned for 13 year olds) unless it is on the list of jobs which children are not allowed to do;
  • engage in street trading but only if they also have a separate Street Trader's Licence for this. (For details on Street Trader's Licences contact the Department for Sustainable Communities, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Council Offices, Sandwick Road, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, HS1 2BW).


Children can work

  • for a maximum of 2 hours on schooldays, only one of which may be before the start of school;
  • for a maximum of 5 hours (if aged under 15) or 8 hours (15 or over) on Saturdays and weekdays during the school holidays, subject to an overall limit of 25 hours (under 15) or 35 hours (15 and over) a week in the school holidays;
  • for a maximum of 2 hours on Sundays; or
  • subject to a maximum of 12 hours per week in term time.


Children may not work

  • before they are 13 years of age (unless it is in "performances" (eg television, stage or modelling work) which are covered by separate requirements under Performance Licensing legislation);
  • if they are 13 years of age, in any employment other than "performances" or work which is specified in the Comhairle's Byelaws as being suitable for 13 year old children;
  • for more than one hour before the start of school;
  • during school hours; or
  • before 07.00 or after 19.00;
  • for more than 4 hours without a break of at least one hour;
  • throughout the year. They then must have at least two weeks free from work during the school holidays;
  • without an employment permit issued by the local authority;
  • in any industrial undertaking eg a factory, building site etc;
  • in occupations prohibited by local byelaws or in other legislation (eg in pubs or betting shops) or in any work which is likely to be harmful to their health, well being or education; or
  • in television, theatre or other similar activities, including modelling, without a performance licence issued by the local authority 2.

2 Performance licences are covered by separate legislation. Further information can be obtained from the Department of Education & Children’s Services, Council Offices, Sandwick Road, Isle of Lewis HS1 2BW (01851 822729)

In addition, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's Employment of Children Byelaws do not allow children of any age to be employed:

  • in a cinema, theatre, discotheque, dance hall or night-club (except for a show involving only children or as a licensed performer);
  • to sell or deliver alcohol (except in sealed containers);
  • to deliver milk or fuel oils;
  • in a commercial kitchen;
  • to collect or sort refuse;
  • in any work which is more than three metres above ground level or, in the case of internal work, more than three metres above floor level;
  • in employment involving harmful exposure to physical, biological or chemical agents;
  • to collect money or to sell or canvass 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's shop or other premises connected with the killing of livestock, butchery, or the preparation of carcasses or meat for sale;
  • as an attendant or assistant in a fairground or amusement 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;
  • in fish processing plants;
  • in any work which is not what the law calls "light work";
  • for more than one hour before school;
  • in work out of doors, unless they are wearing suitable clothes and shoes. (An employer is not obliged to provide these but if the child does not have suitable clothes and shoes themselves it is against the law for the employer to employ them to work outdoors without them);
  • to do anything not covered by their employment permit; or
  • to carry out street trading unless they also have a Street Trader's Licence.


Pupils over the Minimum School Leaving Age do not need a permit for work.


Application Form (126.1kB) (Opens in a new window or downloads a file)

Application Form (33.0kB)

Employers must apply for a permit within one week of employing a child. Permits cannot be transferred, so even if the child has a permit from a previous job this does not excuse a new employer from having to apply. Permits also relate to a specific job - so if that job changes, employers must also apply to the Department of Education & Children’s Services to have the permit amended.

The child and their parent/guardian should complete the first two parts of the application form and full details of the proposed employment should also be confirmed by the employer. The form should then be sent by the employer to the Department of Education & Children’s Services, Council Offices, Sandwick Road, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis HS1 2BW. The Department of Education & Children’s Services will approach the child's school to seek the Head Teacher's views on whether undertaking the employment would be in the best interests of the child e.g. having regard to its possible effect on the child's education. The Department of Education & Children’s Services will also seek from the employer any further information which is necessary and will ask for the child to have a medical examination if necessary.

In completing the application form, employers must certify that a "risk assessment" has been carried out as required under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This risk assessment must specifically address hazards connected with the employment of children in relation to the proposed work (eg inexperience or lack of maturity) and a copy must be given to the child's parent or guardian prior to any work taking place. Employers should consult specialist health and safety at work publications or health and safety practitioners if in doubt.

Copies of the new Byelaws, additional copies of this leaflet, application forms and further advice on employment permits can be obtained from the Department of Education & Children’s Services, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Council Offices, Sandwick Road, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, HS1 2BW. Phone: 01851 822729

Every care has been taken in the preparation of this page but it should be noted that it does not form a definitive statement of the law and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar accepts no liability for any loss or harm caused by reliance on its contents.

Further Information

For further information please contact:

Catriona Maciver
Tel: 01851 822729
e-mail: catriona-maciver@cne-siar.gov.uk