Child employment laws in Australia aim to protect the rights and well-being of young individuals in the workforce. These laws are different for each state and territory and aim to regulate working hours and ensure educational and developmental needs are met.
However, it is clear from recent cases involving Red Rooster and Cold Rock franchisees that some employers are unaware of their child employment obligations under the different legislation. This article aims to provide a brief summary of Australian child employment laws.
How is a child worker defined?
While it may seem obvious that a child is a person under the age of 18 years old, child employment legislation has different definitions depending on the state or territory. For example, Victorian legislation defines a child as a person under 15 years of age. Therefore, it is first important to check the definition of a child in your state or territory’s legislation to determine which rules apply to their employment.
What is the minimum age of an employee?
Similar to the definition of a child, the minimum age for employment varies depending on the state or territory. Every state and territory has different minimum age requirements, and certain industries may have additional restrictions.
At what times can child employees work?
Child employment laws can restrict the number of hours a child can work to prevent interference with their education, health, and overall well-being. Generally, these restrictions include limits on:
- their start and finish times;
- maximum working hours per day;
- maximum working hours per week;
- maximum number of consecutive working days;
- minimum hours of work before requiring a break;
- minimum rest break between shifts.
If the employee is defined as a child under the legislation, the hours restrictions of the relevant state or territory child employment legislation will be applicable.
Child employment laws prioritise education by setting limits on work hours during school days and ensuring that work does not interfere with a child’s compulsory education. Employers should be careful not to roster a child during school hours and be considerate of their educational commitments outside of work.
Do child employees need parental consent?
The state or territory legislation may require parental consent to employ a child. Regardless of the legislation, it is generally best practice to obtain parental consent before employing someone under the age of 18.
Depending on the state or territory, employees in charge of supervising a child employee may require a Working with Children Check. This will also depend on the industry the child is working in.
Work Health and Safety
Employers have a duty of care to provide a safe and supportive working environment. This is especially critical when working with young workers who might not be aware of the potential hazards within your industry. As a result, employers of children must emphasise the importance of safety within the workplace and ensure that these employees receive proper safety training when they start work and during their employment.
It must also be noted that certain types of work may be prohibited for children due to safety concerns. The specific restrictions will vary across states and territories.
The key point to remember is that child employment laws vary across each state and territory in Australia. Therefore, it is crucial for employers to familiarise themselves with the specific regulations applicable in their state or territory to ensure compliance and protect the rights of young workers.
Workplace law can be difficult to keep up with and can get very complex, increasing the risk of employment non-compliance.
Clients of ER Strategies can access our online resources and training module on child employment laws. Give us a call on 1300 55 66 37 if you have any questions regarding the different legislation or any recent changes.
For non-clients, give us a call on the same number or click the button below. We’d love to see how we can help you and your business.