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Employment of children and school leaving age

By CCIWA Editor 

The Children and Community Services Act 2004 (the Act) provides for employment of children laws in Western Australia.

Part 7 of the Act, Employment of children, states a child is considered to be an employee when they are “engaged to carry out work whether or not the child receives payment or other rewards for work regardless if the child is engaged under a contract of service or any other arrangement”.

At what age can a child be employed and what kind of work can they do?

Generally, children need to be at least 15 years of age to be employed. It is unlawful for children under 15 to be employed in industries other than in accordance with the exemptions set out below.

Exemption: children aged 10 to 12

Children that are 10, 11 or 12 years of age may be employed to carry out delivery work (delivery work is defined as “work that involves the delivering of newspapers, pamphlets or advertising material”), as long as it is between the hours of 6am and 7pm and they are accompanied by a parent of the child, or another adult that has been given written authorisation from the parent to accompany the child.

Exemption: children aged 13 to 14

Children aged 13 to 14 years of age, with their parent’s written permission, may be employed to carry out delivery work; work in a shop, fast food outlet, cafe or a restaurant, or collect shopping trolleys from a retail outlet or adjacent area, between the hours of 6am and 10pm and outside of school hours.

No age restriction

The Act does not have any restrictions on the age a child can be employed to work in a family business, the entertainment industry or the making of advertisements.

Although the above exceptions exist, the School Education Act 1999 prevents the employment of children of compulsory school age during the hours that the child is required to attend school. A penalty of up to $5,000 applies for breaching this provision.

Potential penalties/enforcement of laws

Fines of up to $24,000 may be issued to an employer or parent who permits a child to undertake work other than of the type stipulated or work outside the stated hours. Incorporated employers may face a fine of up to $120,000. If the employer is able to show that there was genuine belief that the child was more than 15 years of age, then the fine may not apply.

If an employer allows a child up to 18 years of age to be employed to perform in an indecent, obscene or pornographic manner in the course of participating in an entertainment or exhibition or in the making of an advertisement, the employer is liable for imprisonment for 10 years.

Authorised officers have the power to enter workplace and carry out checks. An authorised officer may require any person in the workplace to answer any questions in relation to the employment of a child in that workplace. A person must not refuse or fail to answer a question when required to do so or give an answer that the person knows is false or misleading. Penalties may be up to $6,000.

How will the school leaving age affect employers?

The minimum school leaving age, set by the School Education Act 1999, is the end of the year which a child turns 17 years and 6 months of age. This means an employer cannot employee a student under the minimum school leaving age during the hours that the child is required to attend school. However, some exceptions exist.

There are no restrictions on students working part-time (e.g. at a fast food outlet) in addition to their full-time education.

As an employer you can employ young people full-time (or part-time if they are involved in a combination program which includes school/training and/or part-time work) during the year in which they turn 16 or 17 with approval. Parents are responsible for completing the process but employers will be required to provide details relating to the job and to sign a ‘Notice of Arrangements’ form which is submitted by the parent. This form can be obtained from the Department of Education.

Employers must:

  • Comply with workplace laws
  • Ensure that full-time work is in accordance with the approved education, training and employment requirements set out by the Department of Education
  • Notify the Curriculum Council at the point of commencement and if and when a change occurs.

Call CCIWA’s Employee Relations Advice Centre on (08) 9365 7660 for further information or email advice@cciwa.com.

 

The Children and Community Services Act 2004 (the Act) provides for employment of children laws in Western Australia.

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