Employing someone under 15? Here’s what you need to know about child employment laws

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Employing someone under 15? Here’s what you need to know about child employment laws

A Victorian Muffin Break franchise has recently found itself in hot water after being found to be in violation of child employment laws. The bakery is alleged to have breached these laws on numerous occasions and is currently facing 360 criminal charges and some hefty penalties.

The bakery, which employed three children under 15, is alleged to have failed to hold an appropriate permit to employ children. It is also alleged to have rostered the children on for more than the maximum number of hours that is legal for employees under 15. Other allegations include a failure to provide appropriate rest breaks, and failure to provide the children with adequate supervision.

In employment law, anyone under the age of 15 is considered to be a child. If you are looking to employ children at your business, there are some important considerations you need to be aware of to ensure you remain compliant with child employment laws, and don’t risk finding yourself in a similar situation.

In Australia, each state and territory have its own requirements in place when it comes to employing children. As an employer, it is your duty to educate yourself on the requirements that apply to your state and know what your obligations and responsibilities are when you employ employees under 15.

As a general guide though, if you currently employ or are looking to employ someone under the age of 15, there are a few key things you need to be aware of from a HR perspective. These include:

  • Legislation: Most Australian states have specific legislation in place that govern the employment of children under the age of 15. This includes the Industrial Relations Act 1996, the Industrial Relations (Child Employment) Act 2006, and Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998in New South Wales; the Child Employment Act 2003 in Victoria; the Child Employment Act 2006 in Queensland; the Children and Young People Act 2008 in the Australian Capital Territory; the Care and Protection of Children Act 2007 in the Northern Territory; and the Children and Community Services Act 2004 in Western Australia. In Tasmania and South Australia, no specific legislation is currently in force governing child labour; however, as the employer, you will still need to abide by several restrictions that are currently in place which govern the employment of children.
  • Age: The minimum age for employment is something that varies from state to state. In some states (such as New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, and Tasmania), there is no minimum age. However, there may be restrictions in place when it comes to the type of work that can be performed by children under 15 (e.g. only being able to perform light duties). In other states, such as Victoria, Queensland, Norther Territory and Western Australia, the minimum age of employment is 13. In some cases, it may be possible to employ employees under this age if it is in a family business, delivery work, entertainment industry work, or similar. As the employer, it is your responsibility to check and verify the age of the children you are employing to ensure you comply with these restrictions.
  • Parental consent: In some states, the child’s parent or guardian must sign and return a consent form before they are able to commence employment. In Queensland, this is a requirement for employees that are under 16, and in the Australian Capital Territory, for employees under 15. In Western Australia, parental consent is only needed for employees that are 13 or 14. In New South Wales, South Australia, Northern Territory, and Tasmania, parental consent is not required.
  • Providing adequate supervision: In most Australian states, there is a requirement to provide children with adequate supervision. Usually, “adequate supervision” is defined as supervision by someone who holds a valid Working With Children clearance check. New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, and Australian Capital Territory all have supervision requirements in place. Some states (such as South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory, and Western Australia) do not require this; however, ensuring the children you employ are supervised is still considered to be “best practice”. Whether or not your state has supervision requirements, it is still important that you provide any children you employ with the relevant training and education that they require to be able to perform their job safely (just as you would any other employee). This is particularly important if they are going to be using equipment that could potentially be dangerous.
  • Permits: As the employer, it is important that you secure the relevant permits that you need for your business to be able to employ children. Most commonly, this includes a valid Working With Children clearance check, though additional requirements may apply depending on your state.
  • Record keeping: Most states will require you to keep detailed records that document the employment of children under the age of 15 by your business. Although the details that need to be recorded will differ from state to state, as a general rule, you will need to record things like the child’s age, date of birth, phone number, address, parent or guardian details, and emergency contact. You will also need to keep track of the dates and hours worked, the nature of the work performed, the times at which breaks were taken, and who was responsible for providing them with adequate supervision.
  • Restrictions on full-time employment: Each state will also have its own restrictions in place when it comes to employing children on a full-time basis. For example, in Tasmania, the only requirement for full-time employment is that the child has completed Year 10. In New South Wales, you can only employ children full-time if they have completed Year 10 or have turned 17. In Victoria and Northern Territory, you can only employ them full-time if they have completed Year 10 and are over 15, and in Queensland, if they have completed Year 10 and are aged 16+. In the Australian Capital Territory, employees must be 17 or have completed Year 12 before they can work full-time. Being 17 or above is also a requirement for full-time employment in Western Australia. In South Australia, employees must be 16 or above and have completed Year 12, or be 16 and completing an apprenticeship or traineeship.
  • Other restrictions: When employing children, there are other restrictions in place that govern the number of hours that they can work, the lengths of shifts they can work, and the times at which they can work. In Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, and Northern Territory, the main requirement is that you cannot require child employees to work during school hours, unless they are over 15 (for Northern Territory and Western Australia), 16 (for South Australia), or 18 (for Tasmania). Some states have additional requirements in place – for example, in New South Wales, employees under 15 cannot work more than 5 consecutive days, more than 4 hours on a school day, or after 9pm on a school night. In Victoria, employees under 15 cannot work for more than 3 hours a day, more than 12 hours a week (during the school term), more than 6 hours per day (in the holidays), or more than 30 hours per week. They also cannot work before 6am or after 9pm. In the Australian Capital Territory, employees under 15 cannot work for more than 10 hours per week, more than 6 hours per day, or before 6am or after 10pm. In Queensland, children under 16 cannot work for more than 4 hours a day on a school day or 8 hours a day on a non-school day, more than 12 hours during a school week or 38 hours during the holidays, or before 6am or after 10pm. In all of these states, children can also only work one shift per day, and must receive a 12-hour break between shifts.

There will also be restrictions in place governing the rest breaks they are entitled to. In New South Wales and Queensland, child employees are entitled to a one-hour rest break after working for four hours. In Victoria, the requirement is a half hour rest break after three hours of work.

Educating yourself on the child employment laws and requirements that apply to your state is easily the best way to protect yourself legally, and ensure your business remains in compliance with labour laws.

Looking to employ someone under the age of 15, and need help ensuring your business is compliant with child employment laws? We can help. For more information, get in touch with us today at hello@mmchr.com.au or 07 4243 5977.

Source: https://www.nra.net.au/engaging-junior-employees-what-you-need-to-know/

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