A few months ago, our eldest daughter (who is 15) started her first paid job. It was a bittersweet moment. My bank account was grateful and thankful to the employer for providing her with a job. But, my head and heart felt concerned and anxious about how our eldest baby will experience her first job.
Our eldest daughter has been tasked with 7 years of emptying the dishwasher as her one chore. Now, this is paid work within the home so I expect (as any employer would) for the job to be done. However, sure enough, I have had to remind her to unload said dishwasher nearly each and every one of those days …for 7 years. Hence my concern regarding her entering the workforce. As the relationship dynamics are different, would she perform well? What if she doesn’t? How will her employer deal with her? And my “inner protective lioness” moment of how is she going to deal with rude customers?
Fast forward to now. She commenced her employment with an employer who has an impressive training technique. She felt comfortable enough with the trainer and manager to ask a lot of questions during her training. She likes her job. Her employer likes her work performance and I like and appreciate her employer’s style. She has dealt with rude customers in a way in which I am super proud! On this occasion, it all worked out.
In contrast, I have heard about the other end of the spectrum with inadequate training, questionable verbal interactions and bullying of young workers. Employers must take reasonable steps to ensure that a child (a young worker) is not subject to deliberate or unnecessary social isolation or any behaviour likely to intimidate, threaten, frighten or humiliate them. Apart from rupturing young workers confidence, this is a serious health and safety risk.
Employing young workers is beneficial to businesses as it significantly reduces wages. However, this also means that an employer must understand and adapt to the special characteristics involved. The special characteristics of young workers include, but are not limited to;
- The size of the person and physical maturity;
- Their general behaviours and maturity;
- Their work experience and training;
- Their confidence to raise problems with their supervisors;
- Their ability to make mature judgements about their own safety and the safety of others;
- Their ability to cope with unexpected and stressful situations; and
- Special characteristics that mean young workers are more likely to be affected that adults in the same situation.
Each State and Territory have legislation dealing with child employment which supplements the Fair Work Act 2009. This article is dealing specifically with the Queensland Child Employment Act 2006, the Child Employment Regulation 2016 (commenced 1 September 2016) and school-aged workers.
The common misconception is that children must be 14 years and 9 months in which to seek and obtain employment. Queensland legislation generally prohibits (unless approved) the employment of young workers younger than 13 years of age. Prior to age 13 approved circumstances include: for entertainment employers, family business and some forms of supervised employment such as deliveries and charitable collections.
Hours of work
For those young workers who are still at school there are restrictions on hours that can be worked on a school day and non-school day:
- During a school week, a school-aged child can work a maximum of 12 hours per week;
- Work on a school day is a maximum of 4 hours only; and
- On days that children are not required to attend a school they can work a maximum of 8 hours, but again this is capped for a 12 hour week during school weeks.
During a non-school week, a school-aged child can work a maximum of 38 hours.
Times of work
Restrictions are in place regarding the times for work:
- School-aged and young children cannot work between 10pm and 6.00am.
- Those children between the age of 11 and 13 years (that carry out delivery work) cannot work between 6pm and 6am.
Children working in a family business are not subject to these restrictions, however family businesses should be mindful of the power the Director-General of the Department of Justice and Attorney- General’s office has to issue a work limitation notice (where it is reasonably believed that the work may interfere with a child’s schooling or be harmful to their safety, health, physical, mental or social development).
Business owners who should already be familiar with our Federal workplace laws should also review the Child Employment Act 2006, Child Employment Regulation 2016, the Child Employment Guide and Children and Young Workers Code of Practice 2006.
There is a number of published materials available online to assist employers, however, these should be tailored specifically to the workplace and the young workers employed.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has published the “Best Practice Guide – An employer’s guide to employing young workers.” Located here.
Practical tips for working with young workers include: invite interactions, set short terms goals, tailor training to cultural, literacy and learning needs, provide a thorough induction and continued supervision, check for understanding and provide positive affirmations on their work progress. If you are particularly keen, try reverse mentoring! Many young workers are highly skilled in tech and social media skills which may be beneficial to your business.
Your school-aged or young child worker will need you to complete a parents/guardian consent form. A parent/guardian must ensure:
- they are present if it is their baby that is employed;
- they provide a parent’s consent form to the employer before employment can occur;
- they inform the employer if their child’s school hours change by submitting a parent’s consent form within 14 days of the hours changing.
Parents and guardians should familiarise themselves with the law surrounding young workers employment to ensure that both their child’s rights and obligations are being met.
The Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney General has published a “Child Employment Guide” located here. By law, this guide is required to be displayed conspicuously in a child’s (young workers) workplace where it can be easily accessed by the child to read (by the employer).
The Fair Work Ombudsman has published a “Best Practice Guide – A Guide for young workers” located here.
The Regulations also provide for circumstances when your child is ill, parent/child communication during working hours and employers requirement to provide notice.
Young entertainment workers rights and obligations are not covered in this article. This article provides very brief general information and does not cover all aspects of young workers in employment. This article was written in 2016 qnd the law may have changed since then. Should you have a legal question or situation you should engage the services of a lawyer to provide you with advice on the law specific to your circumstances.