Child Employment

With the festive sales season in full swing and school holidays around the corner, it is crucial for businesses to review their child employment obligations and ensure they are compliant when engaging younger workers during the busy holiday season.

This is especially true for Victorian employers as the Victorian Wage Inspectorate has commenced a large-scale compliance campaign on child employment. Retailers can expect to be contacted as part of that campaign and may be required to produce documents for inspectors. As the rules regarding child employment differ from state to territory, here are some things to consider before employing a young worker.

Who is considered a young worker?

Child employment legislation applies to all workers under the age of 18. However, specific emphasis generally lies with children who are of school age, under the age of 15 or 16 (depending on state or territory), or are required to be at school.

In Victoria, the Victorian Wage Inspectorate has commenced a compliance and enforcement campaign targeting employers in retail who employ children under 15. Currently, in Victoria, children can work in retail from the age of 13 but employers must obtain a permit before employing workers (paid or unpaid) under the age of 15. The purpose of this permit is to safeguard children from work that could be harmful to their health, safety, and wellbeing by enabling the Wage Inspectorate to ensure matters like rest breaks, hours of work, safety, and supervision are being complied with before the employment begins.

Obtaining a permit in Victoria is free with an online application process that can be found here. Businesses found in breach of child employment laws could face consequences ranging from warnings to fines over $18,000 per contravention.

If you receive correspondence from the Victorian Wage Inspectorate regarding your child’s employment obligations, you are encouraged to seek advice from the National Retail Association’s Workplace Relations Team immediately. To do so, please call 1800 RETAIL (option 1).

Importantly, permits are not limited to Victoria and can be required in the Australian Capital Territory for children working in environments considered ‘high risk’.

Limitations on rostering

In many states and territories, there is a limit on how many hours a young worker can work. For instance, in Queensland, a school-aged child is only able to work one 4-hour shift on a school day and one 8-hour shift on a non-school day. Whereas in Victoria, children may work a maximum of 3 hours per day and 12 hours per week during the school term. This limit is increased to 6 hours per day and 30 hours per week during school holidays. Some states have adopted a far more relaxed approach to child employment such as Western Australia where children aged 15 to 16 are able to work except during school hours when they are legally required to attend school.

Limitations on responsibilities

Employers should ensure the nature of the work the young worker is being asked to undertake is appropriate for their age, size, and physical strength. Further consideration of the impact the work will have on the young worker’s development should also be taken. This extends to ensuring the level of responsibility the young worker has is consistent with their capacity to perform the work.

The requirement to supervise

In most states and territories there exists a requirement that school-aged children or young workers be supervised by an adult. In Victoria, this adult must have successfully undergone a Working with Children Check. This obligation to supervise includes being near the vicinity of where the young worker is working and keeping in regular contact.

Obtaining parental consent

Before employing a school-aged worker, employers may be required to obtain parental consent. This can be done by using a parental consent form which includes:

  • The child’s date of birth;
  • The name of the employer;
  • A statement from a parent consenting to the child performing the work for the employer; and
  • Information from the school-aged child disclosing when the child is required to attend school.

Record-keeping requirements

Employers may also be required to keep records relating to the young worker’s employment. While differing from state to territory, these can include:

  • The name, address, and contact telephone numbers of:
    • The child
    • The child’s parents.
    • An emergency contact nominated by the child’s parents; and
    • The child’s supervisor.
  • The child’s date of birth and when their employment commenced;
  • The nature of the work the child is employed to carry out; and
  • A roster of when the child worked and copies of remuneration paid.

Ensuring compliance

For more detailed information, National Retail Association members may access our Child Employment Guide through the member portal which provides a detailed breakdown of child employment legislation for each state and territory.

For advice on child employment obligations, please call the NRA Workplace Relations hotline on 1800 RETAIL (738 245) (and select option 1).