Guidance on children and young people in employment or entertainment


There are laws that cover employment of children under school leaving age. Children are of compulsory school age until the academic year in which they turn 16. Our guides can help children and young people, their parents, employers and producers.

Work permits

If you have a young person of compulsory school age working for you, you must make sure they have valid work permits (employment cards). The employer must apply for these and they are issued for specific employment. They cannot be transferred with the child if they change job or employer. The work permits are issued by the local authority where the employer is based and not where the child lives (if that is different).

Work permits may also be necessary when children are volunteering, even for charities. Please take a look at this volunteer's guide and the Working with Volunteers page for more information.

If you are employing a young person within the Surrey County Council Local Authority area, you will need to apply to us. Please complete and follow the instructions on our work permit application form (PDF).

For more information on any aspect of child employment in Surrey, email or call us on 01483 517838.


There are also specific rules that apply for children working in entertainment.

  • Our parents guide gives advice to parents with a child working in the entertainment industry.
  • If you are a producer of entertainment working with a child or young person, please read our guide for producers. It explains your responsibilities towards the child, including the important role of the child's chaperone.


Performance licences

All children of compulsory school age require a performance licence (PDF) to take part in any performance. Applications for performance licences should be submitted at least 21 days before the date of the first performance.

We can only issue performance licences for children that live permanently in the Surrey County Council area. This is not the same as the postal area of Surrey. Proof of address may be required with applications.

Although we will aim to process applications received with less than 21 days notice whenever possible, we cannot guarantee this will always be the case. There will be a fee of £40 per licence for applications received five full working days or less before the date of the first performance. This fee does not guarantee a performance licence will be issued if required information is missing. See our guidance to help you complete the performance licence application form.

Body of Persons Approval exemption

We can allow exemption approvals to some organisations putting on non-professional or amateur performances that would normally have to licence individual children taking part. This could include for example, amateur dramatics, operatic societies, dance schools and organisers of music/drama/dance festivals. These are issued for each performance/festival or for 12 months. The performance/festival must still comply with the law around children in entertainment.

Organisations requiring approvals need to complete a BOPA Application form (PDF) if the performance is taking place in the Surrey County Council area. Please see our guidance for help completing this form.

There is a different BOPA application form for organisers of festivals or events. The organisers should complete the BOPA Events Application Form (PDF) and ask all groups taking part in their event to complete a Group Participation Info Form (PDF).

Organisations that wish to involve children in their productions should have a child protection policy. We have produced guidance to help organisations write a child protection policy (PDF).

Applications should be submitted at least two weeks prior to the first performance date.

Unlicensed performance exemption (four day rule)

We can only grant an exemption from performance licensing if:

  • the child is not being paid to take part
  • no other person is being paid for the child to take part (other than out of pocket expenses)
  • the child is not missing any school
  • the child will not have performed for more than four days in the last six months. This includes the current performance that is being applied for.

If you think all of the above applies, you may complete the performance exemption application form (PDF) for children living in the Surrey County Council area. This must be submitted to at least two weeks prior to the first performance.

Premises licence

We provide guidance for all holders and operators of premises licences in a Surrey borough. All applicants for new premise licences or variations to existing premise licences should read this guidance. This is important for completing section M (measure to promote the licensing objective 'Protection of Children from Harm').

Data management

If you would like to see how we use your personal data please read our privacy notice.

Further details

For more information, email or call on 01483 517838.

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