Employing young people and providing work experience – everything you need to know!

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At this time of year, it is not uncommon for small businesses to be approached by young people regarding either work experience or summer jobs. Some older teenagers may also enquire about internships depending on your industry.

But what is the difference between work experience, internships and employing a young person and the rules for each definition?

In this blog we look at the differences, how to determine the best options for your business and the rules and legislation that applies to each group.

Work experience

Most schools encourage students in year 10 to undertake a week of work experience in July. This will probably be a young persons first experience of a workplace and therefore an important introduction to the world of work!

If you are in a position to offer a young person a week’s work experience, then you can contact your local secondary schools to let them know what you can offer and when.

Work experience students will be coming with little or no prior work experience or practical knowledge and will be used to the school environment. Therefore, if offering this type of placement, a business should be able to allocate a person specifically to “look after” the work experience student and to guide them through not only tasks but also support them with navigating the work environment. Think of your usual onboarding process but with much more detail!  

The benefits of taking on a work experience student is that small businesses can develop relationships with young people who they may want to go on and offer employment opportunities later. It is also good for staff moral and shows corporate social responsibility.

Rules for work experience:

School aged under 16 years

14-16 year olds – Are able to take on Unpaid Work Experience for a maximum of two weeks, usually the work experience is unpaid.

If you wish to pay the young person, there is no minimum wage requirement.  

For under 16 year olds you will need to assess whether DBS checks are required for the safeguarding of the child, should they be placed in specific vulnerable situations. 

School aged 16 and over 

For the purpose of unpaid work experience, the work experience must be relevant to their studies and an agreement about the unpaid placement in writing. Otherwise you may find yourself in a situation where they are entitled to be paid National Minimum Wage (not applicable if the work experience is arranged via a school). 

In both situations you should be;

– Confirming your company liability insurance covers work experience and under-aged placements. 

– Completing a Health and Safety Checklist on arrival

– Completing a Risk Assessment for the workplace, once you have done it for one workplace student, you are unlikely to need to do this again for further work placements within that year but would advise reviewing yearly. 

Please contact us for a free template on:

– Work experience guidelines

– Work experience letter with confidentiality statement

– H&S starter checklist

– Work experience agreement

Employing a Young person (England and Wales)

Employing young people is a great way for businesses to grow their own talent, develop a team and grow the company in a cost-effective way. 

In most industries the youngest age a child can work part-time is 13.

Children can only start full-time work on the last Friday in June if they will be 16 by the end of the summer holidays (in other words after they have done their GCSE’s.) They can then work up to a maximum of 40 hours a week.

Once someone reaches 16, you may need to pay them through PAYE.

Most local councils say that businesses intending to employ school-aged children must apply for a child employment permit before they can be employed.

Employers should contact their local council’s education department or education welfare service to find out if a child employment permit is needed.

If a child is working without a child employment permit, there’s a risk that the employer will not be insured against accidents involving the child.

Children under 16

School-aged children are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage.

Children under 16 do not pay National Insurance, so you only need to include them on your payroll if their total income is over the Personal Allowance.

16- and 17-year-olds

Young workers aged 16 to 17 are entitled to at least £5.28 per hour.

If you’re a registered employer, you’ll need to record and report their pay as part of running payroll. If they earn more than £123 a week, you’ll also need to do other regular PAYE tasks like making deductions.

Rules for young people still in school:

There are several restrictions on when and where children are allowed to work.

Children are not allowed to work:

  • without an employment permit issued by the education department of the local council, if this is required by local bylaws
  • in places like a factory or industrial site
  • during school hours
  • before 7am or after 7pm
  • for more than one hour before school (unless local bylaws allow it)
  • for more than 4 hours without taking a break of at least 1 hour
  • in any work that may be harmful to their health, well-being or education
  • without having a 2-week break from any work during the school holidays in each calendar year

Term time rules

During term time children can only work a maximum of 12 hours a week. This includes:

  • a maximum of 2 hours on school days and Sundays
  • a maximum of 5 hours on Saturdays for 13 to 14-year-olds, or 8 hours for 15 to 16-year-olds

School holiday rules

During school holidays 13 to 14-year-olds are only allowed to work a maximum of 25 hours a week. This includes:

  • a maximum of 5 hours on weekdays and Saturdays
  • a maximum of 2 hours on Sunday

During school holidays 15 to 16-year-olds can only work a maximum of 35 hours a week. This includes:

  • a maximum of 8 hours on weekdays and Saturdays
  • a maximum of 2 hours on Sunday


The term internship can be used to describe a variety of situations involving a junior member of staff or someone learning a new industry.

Most internships will entitle the post holder to be treated as an employee and be paid the national minimum wage for their age.

Employers cannot avoid paying the National Minimum Wage if it’s due by:

  • saying or stating that it does not apply
  • making a written agreement saying someone is not a worker or that they’re a volunteer

Promise of future work

An intern is classed as a worker and is due the National Minimum Wage if they’re promised a contract of future work. Employers have no right to implement an unpaid period of work even if the “internship” might lead to future employment.

When interns are not due the National Minimum Wage (NMW)

Only in the following situations are Interns not classed as employees and therefore not entitled to the NMW.

Student internships

Students required to do an internship for less than one year as part of a UK-based further or higher education course are not entitled to the NMW.

School work experience placements

Work experience students of compulsory school age children are not entitled to the NMW

Voluntary workers

Workers are not entitled to the minimum wage if both of the following apply:

  • they’re working for a charity, voluntary organisation, associated fund raising body or a statutory body
  • they do not get paid, except for limited benefits (for example reasonable travel or lunch expenses)

Work shadowing

The employer does not have to pay the minimum wage if an internship only involves shadowing an employee, meaning no work is carried out by the intern and they are only observing.

For more information or help with employing a young person or any other HR issue 

Harwood HR – HR Consultants providing HR Consultancy and
HR Outsourced Services.  We provide clear, cost effective HR advice. For a
free consultation, please contact us on:

0117 439 0119 or info@harwood-hr.co.uk

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