Produced in consultation with Bates, Wells & Braithwaite, Solicitors
This helpsheet sets out the basic rules on using child performers in England.
What is the law?
The Children & Young Person Acts 1933 & 1963 and the Children (Performances and Activities)(England) Regulations 2014 set out:
- When children aged below compulsory school leaving age may take part in performances.
- When child performers must have licences.
- Some standard safeguards.
What is compulsory school leaving age?
Compulsory school leaving age is generally 16. Young people can leave school on the last Friday in June of the school year if they reach the age of 16 before the first day of the following (September) term. If they reach 16 after that September date they have to stay at school until the end of the school year. They will still be considered as children for the purpose of employment even though they may be aged over 16.
When may children take part in performances?
The Children (Performance and Activities)(England) Regulations 2014 set out the conditions under which children under thirteen, who cannot normally work, can appear in stage performances. The number of performances per week, hours of work, breaks etc. that the Regulations specify are set out below.
Earliest and latest times at place of performance or rehearsal
The table below sets out the earliest and latest times a child may be at a place of performance or rehearsal. This regulation does not apply where the place of performance or rehearsal is the place where the child ordinarily lives or receives education.
Age of child
Birth until child reaches 5
5 to school leaving age
A licensing authority may permit a child to take part in a performance before the earliest and after the latest times above but if this happens on two consecutive days the licensing authority must not permit the child to take part in any further performance in the hours between the latest and earliest times during the seven days immediately following those two days.
Attendance at place of performance or rehearsal and hours of performance
The table below sets out the maximum number of hours a child may be at a place of performance or rehearsal, may perform or rehearse in one day and may perform or rehearse continuously. When calculating the number of hours on any day during which a child is present at a place of performance or rehearsal, any periods of education required to comply with arrangements approved under the Regulations must be taken into account, even if that education is provided elsewhere than at the place of performance or rehearsal.
Age of child
Max number of hours in one day at place of performance or rehearsal
Max total number of hours of performance or rehearsal in one day
Max continuous number of hours of performance or rehearsal in one day
Birth until child reaches 5
5 until child reaches 9
9 to school leaving age
Breaks on any day on which a child is performing &/or rehearsing
Children under the age of five:
a) breaks must be for at least fifteen minutes and where a child is present for four or more consecutive hours there must also be at least one meal break of at least forty-five minutes;
b) any break must be used for the purposes of meals, rest, education and recreation.
Children aged five or over. At the place of performance or rehearsal for more than four, but less than eight consecutive hours, minimum breaks are:
a) one meal break of at least forty-five minutes; and
b) one other break of at least fifteen minutes.
Children aged five or over. At the place of performance or rehearsal for eight or more consecutive hours, the child must have the breaks set out above and at least one further break of at least fifteen minutes.
All children taking part in more than one performance on any day must have a break of at least one and a half hours between consecutive performances. This may be reduced to a minimum of forty five minutes where the earlier performance or rehearsal is less than one hour in duration, and: -
a) the following performance or rehearsal takes place at the same place of performance or rehearsal; or
b) there is no time required for travel between the earlier and consecutive performance or rehearsal,
Minimum overnight breaks
A minimum break of twelve hours between attendance at a place of performance or rehearsal, it is generally expected that most children should normally have an overnight break of at least fourteen hours.
Break between periods of performance
A child who takes part in performances( other than circus performances), on the maximum number of consecutive days permitted for a period of eight consecutive weeks, must not take part in any performance or rehearsal during the fourteen days following the last performance. This requirement does not apply if the number of days specified in the licence on which the child may perform is fewer than sixty.
A child must not take part in any other employment on the day of, or the day following, a performance, however, there are no restrictions on activities related to the licensed performance e.g. press conferences or photo calls.
When must child performers have licences?
When you employ children in shows they will generally need a licence if
a) a charge is made for admission to the performance or
b) the performance is at licensed premises or a registered club or the performance is in premises which, by virtue of an authorisation may be used for the supply of alcohol or
c) the performance is live broadcast e.g. TV or radio broadcast or internet streaming or
d) the performance is recorded (by whatever means) with a view to its use in a broadcast or such a service or in a form intended for public exhibition
e) The licence is also essential to apply for the child to be absent from school for rehearsals or performances.
A licence is not generally required if
a) the child does not perform on more than three school days in any six months (provided that there is no absence from school),
b) the child is appearing in a school performance/performance put on by a body approved by the Secretary of State/LEA, where no payment is made to the child (or anyone else).
NB: LEAs would generally require a child to be licensed if absence from school is required for any performance irrespective of the above. Check with the child’s LEA.
How do you get a licence?
- Applications must be made by the person/organisation responsible for the production.
- Licence applications must be made to the LEA for the area where the child performer lives
- Licence applications should be made at least twenty one days before the performance.
The applicant must complete Part 1 of the Licence Application form and must produce:
- The child’s birth certificate or “other satisfactory evidence of the child’s age”.
- Two unmounted photographs of the child taken with the six months preceding the application date.
- A copy of the contract/draft contract or other documents detailing how the child’s appearance in performance will be regulated.
- Medical certificate (this is not always required for theatre work, it will depend upon how many consecutive dates the child performs).
- Particulars of the performance in which the child is to take part: a) description of role; b) place of performance, dates of performance, time and duration of performance, anticipate arrival & departure times (i.e. total anticipated time at Place of Performance); c) approximate duration of the child’s appearances in the performance; amount of night work (NB: this is at the discretion of the Local Authority); d) tutor details; e) school absence details; f) chaperone details; g) lodgings if the child lives away from home; hi) approximate travel time; i) earnings; j) any other LEA to which an application has been made for other children to take part in this performance.
A parent of the child must complete Part 2 of the Licence Application form which includes:
- Child’s name, date of birth, address.
- Names/addresses of schools attended during the 12 months preceding the application.
- Particulars of each licence granted (or applied for and refused) during the 12 months preceding the date of application by another LEA.
- Particulars of any performances the child took part in the preceding 12 months where a licence was not required.
- Dates on which child was absent from school to take part in performances in the preceding 12 months.
- Any other form of employment in which the child is engaged in the preceding 28 days.
- Sums earned by the child during the 12 months preceding the applications.
NB: Permits are issued both to the child and to the employer. Some LEAs may send them to each party separately. Some LEAs will send both permits to the employer who should give the child's copy to the child upon receipt. LEAs may also copy a permit to the LEA in whose area the child goes to school or lives and/or to the child's school. Employment Permits are specific to the child, the employer and the employment. If a child has more than one job (whether it is with the same employer, another employer or at a different place of employment) each job needs to be registered separately.
What will the LEA check?
- An LEA will want to be certain that the child is fit, that his/her education will not suffer and that there will be proper supervision before they agree to a licence. They will also want to be sure that there are suitable travel arrangements for the child in place and that the venue is suitable.
- Under Section 38(1) of the 1963 Act the Licence Applicant must declare to the LEA that the licence is for acting, dancing or musical performance: the application must be accompanied by a declaration that the part cannot be taken except by a child of about his/her age.
- A Health & Safety Risk Assessment should be completed for all working children. The employer should pay particular attention to the child's lack of experience in the workplace and notify their parent or guardian that a risk assessment has taken place. Contact the Health & Safety Executive if you want more information about carrying out a risk assessment.
- Where a child is to live away from home in order to take part in a performance the LEA must approve their accommodation, meal and transport provisions are suitable.
What information will the licence contain?
- Name of the child
- Name of the parents of the child
- Name of the applicant
- Photograph of the child attached to the licence.
- Name(s), time(s), location and nature of the performance.
- Dates of performances or, in the case of some recorded performances, the number of days during a period not exceeding six months for which a child is licensed.
- Any conditions made by the Local Education Authority, these could include: a) permitted hours; b) transport and chaperoning arrangements; c) sums earned; d) education.
- A statement that the licence is subject to the Regulations.
Licence to perform abroad
These licences are granted by a magistrate and there is no stipulation as to who the applicant for the licence needs to be. The licence cannot, however, be issued unless the magistrate is satisfied that parent or guardian of the child has consented. The magistrate will want to be certain that the child is fit to perform, proper provision has been made to secure his/her health and wellbeing, for his/her supervision and for his/her return home at the end of the licence. The magistrate will want to see that the employment contract has been drawn up in a language that the child understands.
Supervision of child performers
- The Licence Holder will be responsible for ensuring that the supervision requirements of the licensing authority are met. Children must be in the care of either their “legal guardian” or a registered “matron” (now generally referred to as a “chaperone”).
- Only parents are legal guardians, not grandparents, uncles, aunts, child minders etc. Parents cannot chaperone children other than their own – unless they are also licensed as chaperones.
- Chaperone licences are issued by the LEA where the chaperone lives.
- Checks: Most LEAs will check applicants’ i-d papers and references and require an Enhanced DBS Disclosure check.
- The maximum number of children one licensed chaperone can look after is 12. This number is frequently considered too high, LEAs can insist on a lower number of children per chaperone.
- The Chaperone should check that the children in their care are licensed to perform. They should see the licence. They should know which LEA has licensed each child, which LEA areas each child is performing in, who is each child’s Agent (if appropriate), details of each child’s parent/legal guardian.
- The Chaperone should keep a record of the times the child rehearses and performs, so as to ensure that the periods permitted under the Regulations are not exceeded.
- If a child is performing in a touring production the Chaperone must look after them at all times, this includes – a) All communication (written or otherwise) with children must be made through the chaperone. b) Ensuring that, except when the child would normally be on holiday, the course of education provided by the employer and approved by the licensing Authority is followed. c) Accompanying the children at all times when they are out in the streets. d) Sleeping in the house in which the children sleep, near to the room occupied by the children. Checking that lodgings are satisfactory and reporting at once to the employer of the children if he/she considers them unsatisfactory in any respect. e) Ensuring that the child is properly occupied during any spare time; in general he/she may need to exercise a greater amount of supervision than if the child were living at home.
Tax & NI
Children’s earnings are liable to income tax in the same way as other employees, however, NI deductions do not apply to under 16s.
Children Performing Abroad & Children Performing in the UK from Abroad
1) When children from the UK perform abroad they must have a licence from their local Magistrates Court or Bow Street (practices differ depending on which part of the country the child lives). For more information, contact your LEA, local Magistrates Court or Bow Street.
2) Children performing in the UK from abroad must be licensed in the UK and comply with UK legislation on hours of work etc. The procedures are exactly the same as for a UK child.
Children (Performances and Activities)(England) Regulations 2014
Children & Young Person Act 1963
The Children (Performance) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 1998
Statutory Instruments 1998: No. 1678
The Children (Performance) Amendment Regulations 2000
Statutory Instruments 2000: Nos. 10 & 2384