Protection of young people at work

Directive 94/33/EC – protection of young people at work

It sets minimum requirements in order to guarantee improvements in the health and safety of young workers.

Key Points

The directive applies to all young people under the age of 18 who have an employment contract or an employment relationship defined by the law in force in a European Union (EU) country and/or subject to the law in force in an EU country.

EU countries may stipulate that the directive is not be applicable to occasional work or short-term work in domestic service in a private household or to work in a family business which is not considered likely to harm, injure or endanger young people.

The directive provides that EU countries take the necessary measures to prohibit the employment of children and shall ensure that the employment of adolescents is strictly controlled and protected under the conditions provided for in the directive.

The directive defines categories of young people as follows:
young people: young people under the age of 18;
children: young people under the age of 15 or who are still in full-time compulsory education in accordance with national legislation;
adolescents: young people between the ages of 15 and 18 who are no longer in full-time compulsory education in accordance with national legislation.
The directive’s main objective is to prohibit the employment of children.

However, the directive allows EU countries to stipulate, subject to certain conditions, that the ban on the employment of children is not applicable to:
children employed for the purposes of cultural, artistic, sporting or advertising activities, subject to prior authorisation by the competent authority in each specific case;
children aged 14 years or over who work in an undertaking as part of a work/training scheme or traineeship, provided that this work is carried out in accordance with the requirements laid down by the competent authority;
children aged 14 years or over performing light work other than that referred to in the first point above; however, children over 13 may perform light work for a limited number of hours per week in categories of employment defined in national legislation.

The directive includes provisions relating to:
the employer’s general obligations, such as protection of the health and safety of young people, assessment of the risks to young people associated with their work, assessment and monitoring of the health of young people, information about young people and children’s legal representatives on the possible risks to their health and safety;
types of employment which must not be carried out by young people, such as work which exceeds the mental or physical capacities of young people, work involving harmful exposure to dangerous substances.

Directive 2014/27/EU aligns Directive 94/33/EC to Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 which established a new system for the classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures in the EU, based on the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) at international level. In addition, Directive 2014/27/EU replaces references to repealed Directives (90/679/EEC and 90/394/EEC) which are replaced with references to relevant provisions of Directive 2000/54/EC and Directive 2004/37/EC.

Directive 94/33/EC contains provisions relating to working hours, night work, rest periods, annual leave and rest breaks.
Each EU country is responsible for defining the measures to be taken in the event of infringement of the provisions of this directive. These measures must be effective and proportionate to the offence.

The directive contains a non-regression clause concerning the level of protection for young people.

Application & Background

It has applied since 9 September 1994. EU countries had to incorporate it into national law by 22 June 1996.


Council Directive 94/33/EC of 22 June 1994 on the protection of young people at work (OJ L 216, 20.8.1994, p. 12-20)

Successive amendments to Directive 94/33/EC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions on the application of Directive 94/33/EC on the protection of young people at work (COM(2004) 105 final, 16.2.2004)

Report from the Commission on the effects of the transitional period granted to the United Kingdom concerning certain provisions of Council Directive 94/33/EC on the protection of young people at work (COM(2000) 457 final, 20.7.2000)


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