The purpose of this article is to examine children’s attitudes regarding the right to work. The article is based on comments made by 245 15-year-old children on child employment and is supported by focus group interviews with 56 boys and 38 girls and tape-recorded interviews with 15 working pupils. One of most dominant themes to emerge from the data is children’s perception that they have a right to work. The article examines the legislation regarding child employment in Northern Ireland and the role of the state in determining the legislation. The author suggests that within this legislation, children are seen as vulnerable and in need of protection. Traditionally the protection of children in the workforce has been achieved by limiting the hours they can work and the occupations they can enter. Yet when children’s own views are taken into account, they move beyond the limits of protecting them through exclusion to suggesting frameworks whereby their protection may be achieved by empowering them within the labour market.