How Many Hours Can a Student Legally Work in the UK?

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As you get older, more opportunities open up for you – maybe your parents will give you more freedom, so you can go out with friends, and that often goes hand in hand with buying food or shopping together. In order to start spending your hard earned cash though, you have to actually earn it – luckily for you, there are many jobs out there available for students of all ages! If you’re a hard worker like me, you’ll be wondering how many hours you’re allowed to work to get the most amount of money.  

So, how many hours can a student legally work in the UK? The short answer is that the number of hours you can work depends on many factors, like your age, whether it is term-time or school holidays, and if you are an international student. For students aged 13-14, 2 hours every weekday and Sunday with an extra 5 hours on Saturday is your lot. 15-16 year olds are allowed 8 hours on a Saturday. 

I know that this makes the idea of getting a job seem unnecessarily complicated, but don’t be discouraged – in this article, I’ll discuss the different factors affecting the number of hours you can work, as well as giving you some tips on balancing a job and schoolwork.  

What Affects the Number of Hours You Can Work?  

Age is a very big factor in affecting the number of hours a student can legally work in the UK. The youngest age that you can get a job is 13, and you can’t get a full-time job until you’re 16, the minimum school leaving age. If you’re still in school, you can only work a maximum of two hours per day on a school day or a Sunday.  

It’s when you want to start working on a Saturday or during school holidays that your age really affects the number of hours you can work.  

If you’re 13 or 14, you can only work for 5 hours on a Saturday, and a maximum of 25 hours a week during school holidays. You can also only work for 5 hours on weekdays and Saturdays in school holidays.  

If you’re 15 or 16, the number of hours you can work on a Saturday is increased to 8 hours a day. The number of hours you can work during the school holidays also goes up, this time to 35 hours a week. During school holidays, you can work a maximum of 8 hours a day on weekdays or Saturdays.  

Whether you’re 13 or 16, the number of hours you can work on a Sunday stays at 2 hours, no matter the time of year. You are also entitled to an hour’s break every 4 hours, at least a fortnight away from work every year, and you cannot work before 7am or after 7pm.  

Try to get a job with flexible hours. This will make it easier to balance your education with your work, and learn the best number of hours for you. Becoming a writer here at Think Student also offers lots of flexibility! 

To see where I got this information, here is the link. This website also has a useful table that sums up all of the different hours you can work.  

Working as an International Student 

If you are an international student studying at university, the number of hours you can work may be dependent on your visa. If your visa has a specified number of hours you can work on it, you can only work that number of hours. There could also be restrictions on the kind of work you can do, which will also be specified on your visa.  

An example of this is the Tier 4 visa, which is the official UK student visa. If you have this visa, you can usually work a maximum of 20 hours a week during term time if you are studying at degree level, and up to 10 hours a week during term time if you are studying at below degree level. Outside of term, and in the holidays, you can work full time, whatever level you study at.  

The lowest level of visa required to work is a Tier 2 visa. Without at least a Tier 2 visa, you’re not legally allowed to work for an employer at all. 

Outside of your visa, you’ll want to have all the employability skills you can get to ensure the maximum chance of getting a job. For more info on both visas and employability skills, make sure to check out this page. 

Alternativelythis page goes into more detail on visa tiers 

What Job Opportunities are Available for Students?  

Judging by all the restrictions on working hours for students, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there could be a lot of restrictions on the type of job you can work as well, but there are actually a lot of different jobs a student can do! Here, I’ll discuss a few, but for more ideas and information, check out this article. 

A job that you can do at any age is working in the performing arts industry. Good ideas for working in this industry include becoming an actor or model. However, you do need a performance licence for these jobsYou can read more about performance licences and how to get one here. 

Babysitting or pet sitting is also a good idea. These kinds of jobs are also relatively easy to come by as you can always start by asking family friends, relatives, or neighbours if they need a pet sitter or babysitter. You could also get jobs washing cars like this, too.   

Working in retail, such as in a restaurant as a waitress or shelf stocking in a supermarket, is also a popular one. However, you might come across some restrictions here. For example, McDonald’s starts hiring teenagers when they reach 16, the school leaving age.  

Minimum wage is a key factor in deciding which jobs to apply for. Like with how many hours you can work, this depends on your age. If you’re not of school leaving age, you’re not entitled to the National Minimum wage, but according to StudentJob UKif you’re 14 or 15, you are entitled to a minimum of £4.35 an hourIf you’re 16 or 17, you’re entitled to a minimum of £4.62 an hour, according to the UK government website 

How to Balance Studying with a Job 

Of course, getting a bit of extra cash and something to put on your CV is great, but it’s important not to let your grades suffer from it, especially if you’re sitting important exams like GCSEs and A-Levels. Here are some tips on how to balance studying with a job: 

Do your homework as soon as it’s set, or as soon as possible. Yeah, homework might not necessarily be fun, but it’ll be even less fun – and ten times more stressful – if you end up with three essays due, on top of shifts at work. This is especially true if you have exams coming up – you don’t want to have to juggle a ton of homework, shifts at work and revision.  

Draw up a timetable and stick to it. Make a timetable for every day of the week, blocking in the hours you spend at school and at work, and put it somewhere you can see it every day, like next to your bed. Make sure you’ve included time for homework, revision, seeing family and friends, and hobbies or activities you enjoy. It’s very important to stick to this timetable as well. To help you focus when working, put away distractions like your phone. If listening to music helps you focus when working, try searching ‘focus music’ on YouTube. I especially like this oneIf you’re struggling with motivating yourself to work, click here or here for two great Think Student articles on the topic 

Try to revisit your notes every day, even when you don’t have exams coming up. Just refreshing older topics by reading a page or two of your notes every night could help a lot when the time comes to start revising for your exams, as, for example, the topics you covered at the start of the year will be a lot of fresher in your mind, so you won’t have to waste time trying to refresh them, you can just jump straight into revising them! 

Happy job hunting, everyone! 

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