Blog post

Employing your children for summer work in a family business

Robin Maxwell

July 1, 2021

At some point in almost any family business, getting your teenager to help out will seem an attractive idea. It’s extra pocket money for them and an extra pair of hands for you.

Perhaps you’re also trying to get them involved in the business because you see them as a potential successor, something we’ve touched on in a previous blog, or it might just be as simple as keeping them busy during the summer holidays.

Just before the pandemic struck the UK, around 23% of 16 and 17 year olds were employed, so it’s often done. You need to make sure you’re sticking to the rules and to the law, though.

Ages and rules

First, you need to know the basics. We’re talking about children of a young and formative age, so the rules can easily change between ages just one year apart. You must get them right.

A child, defined as someone below the age of 18, can start working part-time at 13, unless they’re involved in areas like television, theatre or modelling in which case they will need a performance licence.

A permit is also usually required from the local council’s education department or education welfare service before you can employ someone below the age of 16.

Places like factories or industrial sites are completely off limits to working children. The same is true of any work that interferes with their health, well-being or education.

Instead, children over 14 can only work in areas considered ‘light’. For instance, they are permitted to work in a shop stacking shelves, or to deliver newspapers and leaflets. They can also work in a cafe or restaurant, but not the kitchen. 

Children are also not allowed to work during school hours, before 7am or after 7pm, or for more than four hours without a break of at least one hour.

What 13-year olds can do depends on local bylaws, which may also have other restrictions on working hours, conditions of work and the type of work they can do, so make sure you check first.

Full-time work is only available to children who have reached the minimum school leaving age, at which point they can work up to a maximum of 40 hours a week. 

This doesn’t apply to English school-leavers, however, who must stay in education, start a traineeship or something similar until they are 18.

Once someone reaches 16, you need to pay them through PAYE whether they work part- or full-time, and once they reach 18, adult employment rights and rules apply.

Term time versus holidays 

Although young, children have a multitude of responsibilities and commitments, such as school. Families of course take that into consideration when getting the kids to help out in the shop or cafe, and so does the Government.

During term time, the amount of time a child can work is therefore limited to a maximum of 12 hours per week, including:

  • a maximum of two hours on school days and Sundays
  • a maximum of five hours on Saturdays for 13 to 14-years-olds, or 8 hours for 15 to 16-year-olds.

During school holidays, including summer, 13 to 14-year-olds can work a maximum of 25 hours per week made up of a maximum of 5 hours on weekdays and Saturdays.

15 to 16-year-olds, meanwhile, can work up to 35 hours per week during the holidays, including a maximum of 8 hours on weekdays and Saturdays, and 2 hours on Sundays.

Things therefore open up for you and your industrious child during these times in the eyes of the law, meaning an extra pair of hands for your business and a wealth of early experience for the working youngster.

Tax implications and opportunities

It’s essential that we hammer home the payment rules when it comes to children. The national minimum wage applies to any employee aged 16 or more, which currently stands at £4.62 for workers between 16 and 17.

Workers between 13 and 15 are therefore not entitled to a minimum wage, so what they take wholly falls to your discretion as an employer – although their wage must be justified by the amount of work which they actually do in your business and the amount of skill required.

In other words, you can’t pay them more or less than you would a non-family member.

Regardless, children are entitled to less given the extraordinary experience work offers at a young age and their lack of experience and skills, giving your business a great opportunity to cut labour costs.

Employing your child can also be a tax efficient labour plan for family businesses given that employers with employees below 21 years of age do not pay class one secondary National Insurance contributions on earnings up to the upper secondary threshold.

But you must be aware that your child will still technically be an employee of your business, no matter how small their job or infrequent their work, so make sure you don’t get caught out on things like pensions auto-enrolment by talking to an advisor.

Get in Touch

If you’re interested in finding out more regarding our family business services, please feel free to contact our family business accountants at Rogers Spencer today!


Robin Rogers spencer
Robin Maxwell

Robin Maxwell is a partner of Rogers Spencer and has been working with us since 2003. Robin specialises in Accountancy Solutions, Audits and Tax and VAT. Find out more about Robin here.

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