How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Work Permit?

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Child labor laws are designed to keep children in school and away from factory conditions that existed over 100 years ago. Laws also state where and how much a minor can work over the course of a day or week. Usually, a minor can get a work permit at age 16, but kids are allowed to perform certain tasks as young as age 12. Where they secure a permit differs from state to state.

Work Permits

A minor under the age of 18 must be enrolled in school to secure a work permit. Students can often apply for a permit at their high school guidance office. If they cannot secure a permit there, they should contact their county department of labor. Work permits state the maximum number of hours per day and week that they will be allowed to work They also will state the hours that they're permitted to work. For example, they will not be permitted to work eight-hour overnight shifts while school is in session.

Young Teenagers and Preteens

Young teenagers and preteens quite commonly secure paper delivery, lawn care, or babysitting jobs; this is legal and does not require a work permit. Younger children also regularly work in the performing arts. These kids also may work at a family business that's solely owned and operated by their parents, including farms. Fourteen- and 15-year-olds may also work as caddies, in banks, summer camps, hospitals, town or professional offices, or hotels, although rules apply as to what duties they may perform.

What Young Teenagers Can't Do

Fourteen- and 15-year-olds may not work in manufacturing or mechanical plants. They also will not be able to work in a restaurant or other food-service industry. Grocery stores are permitted under limited circumstances. Retail stores and barbershops are also not allowed. If a young teen is unsure, he should consult with his school's guidance office or county department of labor to review his state's laws. Before a teenager will be allowed to work in one of these businesses, he will need to produce a valid work permit.

Older Teenagers

Students who are 16 and have a valid work permit have more options open to them. For example, they may work in restaurants (special rules apply where liquor is served). However, until they turn age 18, they won't be permitted to work industrial or construction jobs where there is a good chance that she may become injured. Roofing, logging, processing or manufacturing plants, or work that involves chemicals or electrical equipment is prohibited. She also will not be permitted to drive as part of job duties until age 18. However, the work permit is no longer required after age 18.

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