Working hours and rest breaks for young people

Young workers

The number of hours you can work and the types of jobs you can do, depends on your age.

Young workers are people aged 14 to 18, who work for an employer. As young workers are generally in full-time education, they are protected by different employment laws than adults. This is to make sure their work does not put their health or education at risk.

The working hours for young people are regulated by the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996. The Act sets maximum working hours, rest breaks from work and bans late night working for young people under 18.

The Act applies to young people under 18. It defines children as being under 16 and young people are between 16 and 17. The Act does not apply to children or young people who are employed by a close relative.

You can read more about your employment rights as a young worker.

Working time limits

Children

Employers cannot employ children under 16 in regular full-time jobs. They can employ children aged 14 and 15 years on light work as follows:

  • Children aged 14 or over can do light work during the school holidays where the hours do not exceed 7 in any day or 35 in any week.
  • Children over 15 but under 16 can do light work up to 8 hours a week during school term time.
  • Children under 16 may work up to 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week if they are on an approved work experience or educational programme where the work is not harmful to their health, safety or development. Approved work experience or educational programmes for people under 16 are work experience, training or educational programmes approved by the Minister for Education, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment or by SOLAS
  • Children under 16 must have at least 21 days off work during the summer holidays.
  • Children can be employed in film, cultural, advertising work or sport under licences issued by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Maximum weekly working hours for children under 16

Age 14 years of age 15 years of age
School term-time None 8 hours
Holidays 35 hours 35 hours
Work experience 40 hours 40 hours

Young people

The Act sets the following limits to the working hours of young people aged 16 and 17. If you are aged under 18 and work for more than one employer, the combined daily or weekly hours you work cannot be more than the maximum number of hours allowed.

Working hours for young people aged 16 and 17

Maximum working day 8 hours
Maximum working week 40 hours

Time off and breaks from work

You are entitled to 3 different types of breaks from work:

  • Rest breaks - lunch breaks, tea breaks and other short breaks during the day
  • Daily rest - the break between finishing one period of work and starting the next
  • Weekly rest - whole days when you do not come into work, usually called ‘days off’

Time off and rest breaks for children under 16

Half hour rest break after 4 hours work
Daily rest break 14 consecutive hours off
Weekly rest break 2 days off, to be consecutive as far as is practicable

Time off and rest breaks for young people aged 16 and 17

Half hour rest break after 4 1/2 hours work
Daily rest break 12 consecutive hours off
Weekly rest break 2 days off, to be consecutive as far as is practicable

Limits on night and early morning work

Children are not allowed to work before 8am in the morning or after 8pm at night.

Young people aged 16 and 17 are generally not allowed to work before 6am in the morning or after 10pm at night.

Working in a licensed premises (such as a pub)

Young people who are attending school can be employed on general duties in a licensed premises, such as a pub.

During school term, they can only work until 11pm on a day that is not immediately before a school day. For example, you can work until 11pm on Friday night if you are not in school on Saturday. However, you cannot work until 11pm on Sunday if you must be in school on Monday.

Employers who employ young people in a licensed premises must follow the Code of Practice concerning the Employment of Young Persons in Licensed Premises (pdf).

You can read more about employers’ responsibilities.

The law on young workers employed in licensed premises is set out in the Protection of Young Persons Act 1996 (Employment in Licensed Premises) Regulations 2001 (SI 350/2001).

Complain about a breach of working hours or rest breaks

If you have a complaint about a breach of your employment rights, you should first discuss it with your employer. If you cannot resolve your complaint, you can make a complaint under the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996 to the Inspection Services of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

If you think you have been penalised for refusing to co-operate with an employer in breaching the Act (for example, by refusing to work prohibited hours), then your parent or guardian can make a complaint to a WRC adjudicator on your behalf.

You should make the complaint within 6 months of the event, using the WRC’s online complaint form.

You can also contact the WRC Information and Customer Service, or download the WRC guide to the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996 (pdf).

Where to complain

Workplace Relations Commission - Information and Customer Service

O'Brien Road
Carlow
R93 E920

Opening Hours: Mon. to Fri. 9.30am to 1pm, 2pm to 5pm
Tel: (059) 917 8990
Locall: 0818 80 80 90
Page edited: 3 May 2022