Female sex worker laying on bed being paid money by male client

Is sex work legal in the UK?

Sex work involves adults who provide consensual sexual services in exchange for income or goods.

However, there are various offences related to sex work that can make the laws around this profession feel like a grey area.

According to the Sexual Offences Act 1956 and Sexual Offences Act 2003:

  • “It is an offence for a person to keep a brothel, or to manage, or act or assist in the management of, a brothel to which people resort for practices involving prostitution (whether or not also for other practices).”
  • “It is an offence for a person in a street or public place to solicit another (B) for the purpose of obtaining B’s sexual services as a prostitute.”
  • “A person commits an offence if he intentionally causes or incites another person to become a prostitute in any part of the world, and he does so for or in the expectation of gain for himself or a third person.”

For sex workers – Is sex work legal in the UK?

In the UK, the exchange of sexual services for money is legal

It is also legal to sell sex at a brothel in the UK. However, it is a criminal offence to keep, manage or control a brothel. 

A brothel is a place where people go to engage in sexual activity with sex workers.

Any premises used for offering sexual services by more than one person, whether it’s simultaneously or one at a time, can also be classified as a brothel. 

This can include rooms or flats in a single building that has been let separately to different individuals who provide sexual services, particularly if they are working together.


Man with two women in heels standing in establishment

Is it legal to advertise sexual services?

The short answer is yes, it’s legal to advertise sexual services in the UK.

There are many adult sites available like Vivastreet that provide a legit and safe platform for sex workers to advertise their services

However, there are some circumstances where you could face penalties. In the UK, it’s illegal to advertise sexual services in public telephone boxes and publish articles with obscene content, whether it’s something to be seen or heard. Also, advertising on the internet whereby the platform used is hosted in a country where sex work or advertising sex work is banned. 

Like the UK, there are also other countries where sex work is legal, such as Denmark, New Zealand, Germany, France, Greece, Brazil, and Switzerland. However, the laws surrounding sex work vary country by country, with some countries being more progressive than others. More information on sex work laws can be found on global government sites.

Do sex workers need to pay taxes?

Yes. According to HM Revenue & Customs, sex workers who are constituting a trade or profession in this line of work will need to declare their earnings and are liable to Income Tax like all workers. 

If you’re a sex worker that needs help with your taxes, read our easy guide on managing your taxes.

For clients – Is it legal to hire escorts in the UK?

Yes, it is legal to hire an escort, as escorts are legal in the UK. 

However, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it’s against the law to pay a sex worker for sex who is being forced into sexual activity without their consent, also known as sex trafficking

This is classed as a strict liability offence, which means clients can be prosecuted, even if they were unaware the sex worker was forced.

Despite the age of consent for sex being 16, it’s also illegal to pay for sex from a person under the age of 18.

Also, as mentioned previously, if you are caught soliciting sex in public places, you can get into trouble with the law.


Woman and man sitting down flirting outside cafe


If you happen to come into contact with a fraudulent escort or suspect a sex worker is working against their wishes, please report it to the police. On Vivastreet, you can also report or flag a suspicious advert, where our team will be notified.

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