At work

We explain the laws that keep children and young people safe at work, work experience and volunteering.

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Laws to protect child performers

It is legal in very specific circumstances for children younger than 13 to work – if they’re performing in a play, film, concert, sporting event or modelling assignment.

If the child or young person performing is under the school leaving age, they’ll need a performance licence if they are taking part in:

    • films, plays, concerts or other public performances that the audience pays to see, or that take place on licensed premises; and/or
    • any sporting events or modelling assignments where they are paid.

The person in charge of the event should contact the child’s local council to check if a performance licence is necessary, and should make the application.

Performing is an exciting experience – and to make sure children and young people enjoy themselves and can focus on their work, they must be kept safe. They should always be supervised by their parent, school teacher, home tutor or an appropriate chaperone. NSPCC Learning has more information about keeping child performers safe and what they're entitled to.

Safe work environments for children and young people

Employers have a responsibility to keep all the children they work with safe. This means making sure they have somewhere safe to work, and that their job is suitable for their age and ability.

Employees working with someone underage don’t usually have to be vetted – except in specific circumstances.

If a child is below school leaving age, their employer must inform their parents or carers about any risks and any safety measures.

Getting work experience for children and young people

Work experience can help your child get to grips with the working world and see what a job is like first-hand. Many schools and colleges have work experience programmes, or young people can apply to work experience programmes themselves.

This is a great way to learn, but it’s important to make sure that the employer is prepared to take on young workers and that the workplace is safe. Employers must tell parents or carers if there are any risks and safety precautions to be aware of. It’s also important to let them know if your child has any medical or behavioural conditions that might be dangerous – like asthma. HSE (Health and Safety Executive) provides more information about health and safety at work experience.

Children and young people volunteering

Volunteering can be a great experience for children and young people as well as an opportunity to give back and make a difference to their community. It’s a way to learn new skills and to handle responsibility.

Organisations and groups working with young volunteers must keep them safe and should do all they can to make their experience positive.  

However safe an organisation might seem, it's important to check they take the safety of your child seriously. Use our checklist below to help and find more detail on NSPCC Learning.

  • Written standards of good practice – like a code of conduct or code of behaviour. This should set out boundaries for staff and volunteers, and should address things like discrimination and bullying.
  • Clear procedures and processes for raising complaints and concerns.
  • Effective consent and emergency processes – you should receive a consent form from the organisers, and share your contact details, and any relevant medical information about your child.
  • There's a safe recruitment process for staff and volunteers, including vetting. This means they have appropriate references, criminal records checks and the right technical qualifications for the activity.
  • Staff and volunteers are trained in safeguarding (child protection) – NSPCC Learning provides information and e-courses if you work with children.
  • Children and young people are adequately supervised (based on their age, ability, the activity and venue) by adults who are suitable to care for them.
  • The activity takes place in a safe environment – and there are separate changing areas for children and adults.