- Your main rights as a ‘child’ are about being with your family, having access to education and to opportunities to grow and develop safely
- You are not expected to work – but as you get older and become more independent, you may well want to start working part time
- No one should force you to work or to do anything that is unsafe, inappropriate or you don’t want to do
If you’re under 18, you’re entitled to all the rights contained in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, although of course, the older you are – the closer to 18 – the less you’ll feel like a child and the more you’ll want independence. Getting a job gives you financial independence and your rights protect you from being able to have this independence without being treated badly.
For some young people, working is more than just about independence. Your circumstances may mean that you have to start earning money as soon as possible.
Whether you are looking for part time work to make some extra money or need to start work or an apprenticeship, you have rights which protect you.
If you’re being forced to work, you have rights too – although the people making you work may try and tell you that you have no rights. It’s even more important that you understand what your rights are and how you can make sure you are protected from this kind of exploitation, especially as a child or young person.
Article 32 UNCRC says that the Government should protect children and young people under the age of 18 from ‘economic exploitation’ and from doing work that is harmful to your health or development or which would stop you getting your education. This includes making rules about the minimum age you can be employed and the hours you can work.
There is also a general principle in the UNCRC that means you should be protected from discrimination.
Rights in international treaties like the UNCRC have to be accepted by national governments for them to be really useful. The Welsh Government has taken steps to make sure that the UNCRC is followed in Wales. At the moment, most law relating to employment is made by the UK Government in Westminster, not by the Welsh Government in Cardiff, so when it comes to being in work and employment the same laws apply in England and Wales. Some of the schemes that are in place to put the law into practice may be different between England and Wales. For example the scheme which will support you if you‘re in an apprenticeship.
There are employment protection laws which apply in Wales and cover many aspects of employment once you reach school leaving age, as well as the kind of work you can do before you can leave education. These include:
The Children and Young Persons Act 1933
The Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992
The Employment Rights Act 1996
The National Minimum Wage Act 1998
The Working Time Regulations 1998
The Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999
The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006
The Pensions Act 2008
The Equality Act 2010
The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009
Once you reach the age you can leave school or education, the rights and protections in these laws apply to you if you are in work. We look at how these rights work for 16 & 17 year olds, and for apprentices on other pages on this website.