Rights of young workers
Who are ‘young workers’?
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.
For example, the law for young workers:
- Sets minimum age limits for employment
- Sets maximum working hours
- Bans anyone under 18 from doing late-night work
- Requires young workers to get specific rest periods
- Requires employers to keep specified records for workers under 18
The law sets out different rules for young workers, depending on their age. Workers aged 14 and 15 are classed as ‘children’. Workers aged 16 and 17 are classed as ‘young persons’.
Proof of age and written permission from parents
Before young workers can get a job, they must show a copy of their birth certificate (or other proof of their age) to the employer.
If they are under 16, they need written permission from their parent or guardian. This permission letter must be given to the employer.
The law on young workers is set out in the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996.
Read more about working hours and rest breaks for children and young people.
Restrictions on employing 14 and 15 year-olds
By law, children aged 14 and 15 cannot be employed in regular full-time jobs. However, they can:
- Do light work during the school holidays (they must have at least 21 days off work during this time)
- Take part in an approved work experience or educational programme (once the work is not harmful to their health, safety or development)
- Work in film, cultural, advertising or sport (under licences issued by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment)
Working hours of 14 and 15 year-olds
Outside school term time
Children aged 14 and 15 can work a maximum of 35 hours a week (or up to 40 hours if they are on approved work experience).
During school term time
Children aged 14 are not allowed work during school time. Children aged 15 can do 8 hours of light work a week.
Restrictions on employing 16 and 17 year-olds
Young people aged 16 and 17 can work a maximum of 8 hours a day, up to 40 hours a week.
If the young worker is under 18 and works for more than one employer, their combined daily or weekly hours cannot exceed the maximum number of hours allowed.
Young people are only allowed to work between 6am and 10pm. Any exceptions to this rule must be set out by regulations – see ‘Working in a licensed premises' below.
Leaving school early to take up employment
If you are aged 16 or 17, and you choose to leave school early to take up employment, you must tell Tusla.
Tusla makes sure that every child either attends school, or otherwise gets a minimum education. It keeps a register of young people aged 16 and 17 who leave school early to take up a job.
Tusla also makes arrangements for your continuing education and training, in consultation with education providers and employers.
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. General duties does not include selling alcohol at the bar or in an off-licence.
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).
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.
Paying young people
Getting a payslip
All employees have a right to get a payslip. A payslip is a written statement from the employer that explains your total pay before tax, and all details of any deductions from pay.
Since 1 January 2022, the national minimum wage is €10.50 per hour. However, not everyone is automatically entitled to get this.
Workers under 18 are only guaranteed up to 70% of the national minimum wage, which is €7.35 per hour. Your employer can pay you more than the minimum wage if they want, but they are not required to by law.
Tips and gratuities
If you work in a job where staff get tips and gratuities from customers (such as a restaurant or bar), you are not automatically entitled to get these tips. However, you are not required to give your tips to your employer either.
If all tips are collected by management and paid to staff through the payroll, then these tips are taxed in the normal way.
Upcoming changes to the law on tips
The Payment of Wages (Amendment) (Tips and Gratuities) Act 2022 became law on 20 July 2022. New regulations are needed to commence (or give effect to) the Act.
Once commenced, it will give employees new legal rights in relation to both cash and card tips. Employers will have to make sure tips are distributed to staff fairly, equally and in a transparent way. They will also have to display a notice explaining how tips are shared among staff.
Employers must keep records for every employee under 18, including:
- The employee's full name
- The employee's date of birth
- The employee's starting and finishing times for work
- The wage rate and total wages paid to the employee.
The employer must keep these records for at least 3 years.
Give young workers a summary of their rights
Employers must give employees aged under 18 a copy of the official summary of the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act, and other details of their terms of employment, within one month of taking up a job.
Employers with employees under 18 must also display the official summary of the Act in their workplace, where it can be easily read by staff.
Breaches of the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act
Complain about a breach of employment rights
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.