I want to leave school to work

  • In Wales, you can leave school on the last Friday in June on the academic year when you are 16
  • Your ‘children’s rights’ still apply even if you leave school to work full time when you are 16
  • The laws that protect you if you leave school to work mainly come from UK law and not from the UNCRC

In Wales, you can leave school and start full time employment once you reach the last Friday in June in the academic year when you turn 16. Technically, you are still a ‘child’ – and you still have children’s rights until your 18th birthday. This means that there are still some restrictions on the amount or time you can work, and when you can work.

You can leave full time education on the last Friday in June in the academic year when you turn 16. In Wales, there is no requirement to continue in any kind of education or training beyond this age, so you can go straight into full time employment if that’s what you’d like to do. After this point, it’s your choice whether you stay in education in Wales. If you’d like to stay in some kind of education, or mix work and training, there are lots of options open to you. You can read more about the options for education and training once you’re 16 here.

If you want to stay in education but need financial support to do so, you might be eligible for Education Maintenance Allowance.

You should be protected from any kind of work that can harm your health or development. You also have the right to rest. This means that until you are 18, there will still be some kinds of work you can’t do. You might not be able to work as much as you would like because of limits on the number of hours you can work until you are 18.

Once you are 16, you can work a maximum 40 hour week, and no more than 8 hours a day. You should be given a 30 minute break once you have worked for 4.5 hours, and you must have 12 hours’ rest between each working day, and at last a 48 hour rest period each week. You can’t normally work between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., unless you work in agriculture, retail trading, postal or newspaper delivery, a catering business, hotel, public house, restaurant or a bakery. If for some reason you do have to work beyond 10 p.m. – because there is no one else available to do the work, you must stop at midnight. You should not be made to work between midnight and 4 a.m.

Once you reach school leaving age, you will be entitled to receive the National Minimum Wage (NMW) until you are 25. At 25, you will be able to claim the National Living Wage. The NMW is a fixed amount and depends on how old you are. From 1st April 2017, the NMW for 16 and 17 years olds is £4.05/hour and for 18-20 year olds, it is £5.60. The levels usually change every April so it is worth checking to see what the current levels are.

Your employer can choose to pay you more than the NMW depending on the type of job you are doing, but it doesn’t have to. You have to decide whether you are prepared to work for the amount of money that is offered. You could talk to your friend and find out what they are being paid, to see if what you are being offered seems fair.

You will need to check with your employer when you will be paid (and how you will be paid) but many employers pay monthly, which means you won’t get paid until you have been at work for a month. If this is going to cause you problems, talk to your employer – often there will be a scheme in place to give you an advance of wages, or a loan perhaps if you need to buy some suitable clothes or a travel card to get to work, or just to live for the first month.

Apprenticeships are a specific type or employment which combines work and on the job training as well as college or other education. You can find out more about apprenticeships here.

Once you are 16, there are a number of employment rights that apply to you. Some of these will depend on whether you are an employee or a worker. If you are self-employed, you do not have these employment rights – but be careful because sometimes, employers will try and claim that you are self-employed, even if you are actually a worker.

All employees are workers, but not all workers are employees. Employees have the most employment rights and protections. You can find out more about whether you are an employee or a worker and the kind of employment rights you have here.

The basic employment rights for all workers and employees include:

Your employer should let you know what will be expected of you when you start work. Most employers will give you some kind of an induction to show you around and explain how things work and the rules that apply in the workplace. Every workplace is different but some things that will be important to pay attention to from the beginning will be

  • The time you are supposed to start work
  • What you are supposed to wear for work
  • How you will get to work – whether there is parking available or if your workplace is on public transport routes
  • Whether you can buy lunch on site or nearby – or whether you need to take a packed lunch with you.