The Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act of 1996 was created to give protection to young workers and to make sure that any work undertaken during the school year should not impact a young person’s education.

The Act is specifically aimed at young workers under 18 years of age:

Child: is defined as anyone under 16 years of age or the school leaving age (whichever is higher)

Young person: is defined as people between the ages of 16 and 18

Conditions of employment, hours of work and rest periods

The maximum weekly working hours for those aged under 16 years are as follows:

Age                                                  14    15

Term time                                        Nil    8

Holiday work                                    35   35

Work experience                              40   40

During the summer holidays, those children under 16 must have at least 21 days of free time.


The time off and rest periods for under 16’s:

A half-hour rest period should be given after 4 hours of work

A daily rest break is defined as at least 14 consecutive hours away from the workplace

A weekly rest break is defined as 2 days away from the workplace, if practically possible these being consecutive.


Working hours, time off and rest periods for 16-17 year olds:

The maximum working day is 8 hours

The maximum working week is 40 hours

A half-hour rest period must be given after 4 ½ hours of work

A daily rest period is defined as 12 consecutive hours away from the workplace

A weekly rest period is defined as 2 days off, where possible these to be consecutive.

In circumstances where a person below the age of 18 works for more than one employer, the total of the daily or weekly hours of work may not be more than the maximum hours as defined above. Employers, young persons (i.e. 16 and 17 year olds) or parents, who abet any breach of this law, may commit an offence and may face the consequences.

Night and early morning work

Under 16 are explicitly forbidden to work before 8.00 a.m. or after 8.00 p.m.

Generally, 16 and 17-year-olds should not be employed before 6.00 a.m. or after 10.00 p.m.

In circumstances during school vacations and on weekend nights, 16 and 17-year-olds who are not required to attend school the next day are permitted to work up to 11.00 p.m. where it is authorised by Ministerial Regulation – the only regulations existing at the moment relate to Licenced Premises.

Prior to a child under 16 taking up employment, written permission must be supplied by the parent or guardian.

It is also necessary to keep a register for any employee under the age of 18 containing the following data:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Time at the beginning of each working day
  • Time at the end of each working day
  • Rate of earnings and wages paid
  • Total amount of wages/salary paid

Stipulations under the Act insist that employers give their workers below the age of 18 an official copy of a summary of the Act.

There are exceptions to the provisions of the Act which are related to Workers at Sea, The Defence Forces, close relatives and Farming.

Children (i.e. those below the age of 16) are permitted to be employed in cultural, artistic, sports or advertising work on the proviso that such work is not detrimental to their health, safety or development and has no effect upon their school attendance. In these cases, a licence giving permission needs to be obtained from the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment.

Duties of Employers

Before a young person or child can be employed, the prospective employer needs to peruse a copy of a birth certificate or similar proof of age. All under 16 years old must present a written letter of permission from a parent or guardian.

In case of non-compliance with the Act, complaints may be submitted to the Employment Rights section, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Referral of Complaints

The parent or guardian of a child or a young person is at liberty to instigate a complaint to a Rights Commissioner if an employer has not adhered to section 13 (preservation of existing rates of pay and condition) or section 17 (refusal by the child or young person to co-operate with the employer in breaching the Act).

The decision of a Rights Commissioner will normally conclude that the complaint was either upheld or not and in the former case may order the employer to pursue a particular course of action or demand that the employer pay to the employee an amount of compensation which is considered fair and reasonable given all the related circumstances.