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The Laws Surrounding Kids on Stage

By: Angelique Caffrey - Updated: 18 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
13 14 16 age Range agents break

Your child might be a “natural” on stage. You might be accepting of his or her dream of “breaking into show business”.Agents might already be clamouring to sign up your young star.Yet it’s ultimately crucial to understand the laws surrounding kid performers in the United Kingdom before starting your kid on the path to a professional theatrical career.

Below are some of the most important aspects of the UK’s child labour laws that will absolutely affect your son or daughter should he or she leap into the realm of professional dramatics on stage or film.

Be aware that these are not all-inclusive and that they are being evaluated from year-to-year. Thus they are guidelines and should not take the place of legal and business advice.

Current UK Laws

  • All professional (paid above and beyond “expenses”) child actors under 16 must be licensed by their local education authorities (LEAs). Interestingly, LEAs’ decisions often vary from location to location. It’s even been suggested that some LEAs are far more lenient than others, which can lead to sub par candidates. On the other hand, several LEAs reputedly take a great deal of time when processing licences or simply reject them altogether, which could mean missed opportunities for young actors.
  • Children under 14 cannot receive a licence under UK law unless the role they are performing can only be acted, sung, danced, et cetera, by someone of their age. In other words, there could be grounds to say that the part of a preteen could be played by someone who is actually older but looks younger.
  • The onus is upon LEAs to determine whether or not a child should be given a licence based on many factors, including whether or not he or she would be able to keep up with his or her education. Often, young performers must be provided with onsite tutoring if they are involved in work that will take them away from school for a substantial period of time.
  • All children under 16 are to be accompanied to their performances by a licensed chaperone. The LEA has the responsibility to licence those men and women.
  • Children ages 14 and over are allowed under UK law to perform 79 days out of the year. Children under the age of 13 can only perform 39 days annually. Breaks vary depending upon the time of year, time of day, type of performance and age of performer.
  • Children performers who are licensed are not allowed to work in a setting considered “industrial”, during “traditional school hours”, before 7:00 a.m., after 7:00 p.m., for over four hours without a one hour break, somewhere “harmful” to them or without a break of two weeks each year. (In reality, these rules are sometimes “bent” using a variety of loopholes in the statutes.)
The bottom line for both children and their parents/guardians is that it pays to become highly informed from the get-go. After all, if your eight-year-old is serious about becoming a film star, he or she may only have a few years to compete in his or her “age range” market.

For more information, it’s recommended that you connect with the LEA in your area if you haven’t done so already. Additionally, if you have contacted an agency to represent your son or daughter, make sure you ask them the best way to go about obtaining and continuing licensure for your budding professional performer.

Remember: Many children are working in the UK. With the right information in hand, yours just might be the next darling of the stage or screen.

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