Massachusetts Labor Laws and Minimum Legal Working Age

Young woman working in ice cream shop.

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If you live in Massachusetts and plan to enter the workforce for the first time, you should know what the minimum legal working age in your commonwealth is. If you do qualify to work, there's a lot of information for you to digest before you start your job search. But preparing ahead of time can let you know how many hours you're supposed to work and in what sorts of professional roles.

Doing so will help you work in a manner that's in your best interests and prevent any predatory employers from overworking you (which is illegal). Child labor laws were created to help youth, so know that any restrictions you face as a youth worker have been implemented to protect you on the job.

How Old You Have to Be for Work In Massachusetts

Both federal child labor laws and Massachusetts state law concur that the minimum age to work is 14 (with some exceptions). But child labor laws in each state may vary regarding the minimum age to work and which permits are needed. When there is a conflict between federal and state laws, the strictest law will apply.

Although 14 is the official age Massachusetts youth generally begin working, there are exceptions. The Commonwealth allows children at any age to work on a farm owned or operated by their parents. In addition, children as young as 9 may deliver newspapers with a special badge and parental consent and juveniles ages 10 and 11 may engage in seasonal work with permission from the federal Secretary of Labor.

Lastly, youth 12 or older may sell certain items in public places, but selling door-to-door is prohibited until age 16, and children ages 12-13 may work on farms with their parents or at other farms with parent permission. Children in the entertainment industry may also work with a special waiver by the attorney general, though this provision may be waived. Before youth start their first jobs, it is important to review the rules and restrictions surrounding child labor laws.

Certificates for Work

Massachusetts law requires child employment certificates for youth under age 16. Employment certificates are provided by the school. Youth workers ages 16-17 will need an age certificate to work in the Commonwealth.

What Hours Teens Can Work

While teens ages 14-15 can work in numerous kinds of jobs, such as hospitals, retail stores, and offices, the hours they work are limited. Minors at this age are prohibited from working more than three hours per school day, 18 hours per school week, eight hours per non-school day or 40 hours during a non-school week.

These aren't the only restrictions. Teens in this age group may also not work hours that fall outside of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (except during summer, when working hours extend to 9 p.m.) Whether or not the school is in session, teens ages 16-17 may work up to nine hours per day and 48 hours per week.​

Teens in both groups are prohibited from working more than six days in a row. Up until age 18, you may not work in hazardous occupations involving power tools, toxic chemicals, or other materials or machines that might cause serious injury or death. For more information on the minimum age to work in Massachusetts and how to obtain employment certificates, visit the Massachusetts State Labor Website.