Discover what you can legally do when you hit sweet sixteen…
Turning 16 is a special milestone in a teenager’s life. It’s another step towards becoming a young adult – your world is expanding and there are lots of things you can now do that you couldn’t when you were 15. You have more rights, more choices, and a bigger voice. It can be confusing to know exactly what you are and aren’t legally allowed to do when you’re 16, and even trickier to make good choices, which is why we’ve pulled this handy guide together to help you out.
1. GET A (GENITAL) PIERCING
In England, you can get pretty much everything pierced BEFORE you turn 16 but it’s against the law to have your nipples or genitals pierced when you’re under 16. Things are slightly stricter in Scotland (you need to have a parent’s permission to get anything pierced when you’re under 16) but as soon as you turn 16, you’re free to get pierced wherever you like!
2. LEAVE SCHOOL
You can leave school if you reach 16 before the beginning of the next school year but you must stay in some kind of training until you’re 18. This could be an apprenticeship, full-time college course or working/volunteering for 20 hours a week alongside completion of part-time education or training.
Get more info on leaving school at 16 here.
3. REGISTER TO BE A BLOOD DONOR
You can register to become a blood donor at 16 but you’ll have to wait until you turn 17 before you can give your generous gift.
Most people can give blood, so long as they’re fit and healthy, weigh between 50-158kg and are aged between 17 and 66 (or 70 if they have donated blood before). This checklist can help you find out if you’re able to give blood.
Giving blood saves lives. The NHS needs around 5,000 donations to cover the needs in England alone. All blood donations are crucially important, but the NHS especially needs donors who are:
• Male (men can donate more often than women)
• Black (Ro blood is needed and is a common type for black donors)
• O negative – hospitals need this blood type most regularly, as it can be given to all patients
4. HAVE SEX
The age of consent in the UK is 16, meaning that you can legally give consent to have sexual activity or intercourse with another consenting male or female who is 16 or over. Sexual activity between someone aged 16 or over and someone aged between 13 and 15 is illegal.
Discover more about consent here.
5. REGISTER TO VOTE
The rules are a little different, depending on where you live, so let’s break it down:
England & Northern Ireland
You can register to vote at 16 but you’ll have to wait until you turn 18 to cast your first vote in an election.
Scotland & Wales
You can register at 14 and cast your first vote at 16 years old to vote in Scottish/Welsh Parliament and local elections. You’ll have to wait until you turn 18 to be able to vote in a general election.
Find out more about your right to vote here.
How To Register To Vote:
It’s really simple to register to vote. You can do it online here.
It only takes a few minutes to register, and you normally only need to do this once, not for every election. Have your National Insurance number to hand but don’t worry if you can’t remember it – you can still apply to be on the electoral roll without it.
To join the electoral roll, you must be one of the following:
- a British citizen
- an Irish or EU citizen living in the UK
- a Commonwealth citizen who has permission to enter or stay in the UK, or who does not need permission
- a citizen of another country living in Scotland or Wales who has permission to enter or stay in the UK, or who does not need permission
Click here to register to vote.
6. GET MARRIED
… but only with parental consent. This is why young couples age 16-17 sometimes decide to get married in Scotland, where the legal age of marriage is 16. In England and Wales, you must be 18. If you’re 16 or 17 and desperate to get hitched, you will need each parent with parental responsibility to give their permission before you can tie the knot.
7. DRINK ALCOHOL WITH A MEAL
Eating out in a restaurant? You can drink wine, beer or cider with your meal – as long as you’re accompanied by someone over 18 and they make the purchase. You can also legally go into a bar unsupervised, but you can only buy and consume non-alcoholic drinks.
8. WORK FULL-TIME
Now that you’re 16, you can legally work a full-time job. National Minimum Wage still applies, and you won’t be allowed to work through the night (10pm-6am) or in certain environments until you’re 18, but there’s nothing standing between you and full-time hustle now!
9. JOIN THE ARMY
Atten-SHUN! You can become an Army soldier at 16 and you can even start your application when you turn 15 years old and 7 months. BUT you must have parental approval to join so convincing your parent/s might take a bit of work…
Interested in joining the Army? Click here.
If you’re still too young to join the Army or don’t want to commit to becoming a full-time soldier, you can sign up to join the Army Cadets if you’re aged between 12-18. You can take part in lots of outdoor adventures, learn basic Army survival skills and weapons handling, and even gain qualifications!
Find your nearest Army Cadets here.
10. APPLY FOR A PASSPORT
You can now apply for a passport without parental consent. You can apply online here. Happy holidays!
11. DRIVE A MOPED
To legally ride a moped on public roads you’ll need to get yourself a provisional licence. You also need to complete your CBT – compulsory basic training – which consists of a theory test and two practical tests before you can hit the open road. Find out more here.
12. MOVE OUT
You can leave home when you’re 16 but only if your welfare isn’t at risk. Your parent/s is/are still responsible for you until you turn 18 so if they are worried about your wellbeing, they can take steps to bring you back home. If you’re thinking of moving out and want more information and support, click here.
13. LEGALLY CHANGE YOUR NAME
If you really wanted to, you could change your name by deed poll. Just please don’t change it to Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock or Crap Bag…