- Wednesday, 19 July 2023 at 12:48 am
In April 2022, Wage Inspectorate Victoria’s child employment officers observed a child working at Phillip Island cafe 3925 Espresso. A subsequent investigation found the child was 12 years and 9 months old, below the legal age for working in hospitality.
In Victoria, a child can be employed in hospitality from the age of 13 provided the employer has a child employment permit or licence.
The offence came to light as part of the Wage Inspectorate’s proactive compliance campaign targeting fast-food outlets and cafes in regional Victoria.
Officers inspected workplaces over four days last year to raise awareness of child employment laws and to check that hospitality businesses were complying with the laws. The campaign checked 225 businesses for compliance, which included unannounced visits to 86 businesses on the Bass Coast and in Drouin, Warragul and Moe. 76 per cent of businesses were referred for further investigation after being found to not be complying with child employment laws.
In sentencing, Her Honour Magistrate Broughton said it was of particular concern that the company, operated by owners involved in other business ventures, was unaware of the relevant child employment laws.
Her Honour stated a strong general deterrence is required given the need to protect children from the risk of exploitation and to ensure that the strict obligations governing the employment of children are met.
In imposing a fine, her Honour did not record a conviction against the company having taken into account its cooperation with the investigation, the admissions made, and the early plea of guilty. If not for the early plea, the company would have been convicted and fined $10,000.
Quotes attributable to Commissioner of Wage Inspectorate Victoria, Robert Hortle
“We wouldn’t have known about this case if it wasn’t for our proactive compliance campaign inspecting high-risk businesses. This highlights the importance of getting out there and having boots on the ground, which the Wage Inspectorate continues to do.”
“This matter serves as a warning to employers across Victoria. Our officers are inspecting businesses across the state. We can’t be everywhere, but we could be anywhere.”
“Kids in close knit regional areas often get their first job through family friends, as happened in this case, but it’s important not to let informal recruitment processes lead to noncompliance.”
“Victoria’s child employment laws are there for a reason. The biggest risk of employing such a young kid is that they get seriously hurt in the workplace, but this judgement shows there’s financial and reputational risks too.”
An employer usually needs a licence to employ someone under 15, whether the work is paid or voluntary. Employing a child without a licence is a crime and may be penalised.
A streamlined child employment licensing system replaced the permit system on 1 July 2023, reducing the burden on business. Where a licence is issued, employers can employ multiple children under one licence, rather than applying for a permit for each child they engage.
A prosecution is the Wage Inspectorate’s most serious compliance tool and decisions to take legal action are made in line with its Compliance and Enforcement Policy(opens in a new window).
Further information can be found at wageinspectorate.vic.gov.au(opens in a new window).