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Changes to the Child Employment Act

The Victorian Government’s new child employment laws will start on 1 July 2023.

The Child Employment (Amendment) Act 2022External Link (the Act) improves the regulation of child employment in Victoria. It strengthens protections for children in the workplace and makes it simpler for employers to understand their obligations when employing children.

The Act applies to the employment of children in Victoria under the age of 15 years. Wage Inspectorate Victoria is responsible for enforcing compliance with the Act.

Licensing system

From 1 July 2023, a child employment licensing system will replace the existing permit system. Where an application is assessed and a licence is issued, employers will be able to employ multiple children under one licence, rather than applying for individual permits for every child they engage. A licence may have certain conditions attached to it.

Employers can apply for a 12-month licence for work in the entertainment industry or a 24-month licence for other types of work.

The new licensing system will be more streamlined and risk-based, allowing the Wage Inspectorate to focus on monitoring those types of work that are the highest risk.

The new system introduces a ‘fit and proper person’ test which includes, among other things, consideration of an employer’s compliance with child employment and other relevant workplace laws.

There are new roles for ‘nominated officers’ (all licence types) and ‘employer representatives’ (for entertainment licences) under the Act:

  • nominated officer: a delegate of the employer who will be responsible for ensuring that the Act and any licence conditions are met
  • employer representative (entertainment only): will be responsible for making day‐to‐day decisions about the child’s work as well as ensuring the Act and any licence conditions are met.

There will be a public register of all child employment licence holders on the Wage Inspectorate’s website.

What does ‘employment’ mean when it comes to children?

From 1 July 2023, the definition of employment for children under 15 years will change. A child is employed if they perform work:

  • under a contract for service; or
  • in a business, trade or occupation for the benefit of the business, trade or occupation and the child is subject to directions about how their work is performed, whether or not the work is paid or unpaid.

Other key changes from 1 July 2023 include:

  • tutoring outside of residential premises (for example at a library). This is excluded from the meaning of employment and, therefore, the Act does not apply
  • children appearing in the background of news, current affairs, lifestyle, documentary or education programs and who are not given directions about how to appear. This is excluded from the meaning of employment and, therefore, the Act does not apply
  • increasing the age for delivery of pharmaceutical products from 11 to 13 years’ old, meaning children under 13 are no longer able to do this work. A licence will be needed.
  • door-to-door fundraising is no longer excluded from the meaning of employment, meaning the Act will now apply to children undertaking this work and a licence will be needed.

Work related to sporting activities and participation in church or religious projects or activities remain excluded, with the exception of identified high risk sports (martial arts, gym instruction and horse riding. The Act applies to children undertaking this work and a licence will be needed.

Not for profit organisations

From 1 July 2023, not-for-profit organisations who engage children are covered by the Act, even where they do not have an employment contract in place with the child.

Not-for-profit organisations will need to apply for a child employment licence and comply with the Act if:

  • they employ a child under a contract for service, or
  • they engage a child to perform work for the benefit of a business, trade or occupation and the child is subject to directions about how their work is performed.

Family businesses

Permits or a licence are not required for children working in their own family’s business, including where the business is the family farm. However, the Act requires that children working in the family business must only perform light work and they must not work during school hours on a school day.

From 1 July 2023, the meaning of family business has been updated to make clear that the exclusions only apply to children working in their own family’s business, that is the business of their parent or person with parental responsibility. Children cannot work in a family business that is not their own family’s business without a licence.

Children working in their own family’s business are also required to be directly supervised while they are working.

Supervision

From 1 July 2023, the requirement for direct supervision of children working in their family’s business has been clarified. Direct supervision of a child in a family business means directly observing the work from within the physical location where the work is being performed. The supervision does not have to be solely by the child’s parent or guardian and can be undertaken by another responsible adult working in the business.

Children not working in their own family’s business are also required to be supervised under the Act. Supervisors of children under 15 in the workplace will now be required to be 18 years or older to increase protections.

Compliance and enforcement

The Wage Inspectorate has been provided with additional compliance and enforcement tools to enable it to effectively carry out its role as a risk-based, modern regulator. From 1 July 2023, it will have the power to issue compliance notices as a way of achieving compliance with the Act and infringement notices where a breach has been detected but may not meet the criteria for prosecution set out in the Wage Inspectorate’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy.

The new tools also recognise the Wage Inspectorate’s new regulatory responsibility for the Child Safe Standards. Employers that engage children under a child employment permit/licence are required to comply with the Child Safe Standards.
From 1 January 2023, the Wage Inspectorate will be responsible for making sure the Standards are met.

The penalties for breaching the Act have been increased in line with other comparable, risk-based schemes, such as the working with children requirements. For example, the penalty for employing a child without a permit/licence has been increased from 100 penalty units for a body corporate or 60 penalty units for a natural person to 1200 penalty units for a body corporate and 240 penalty units for a natural person.

Reviewed 20 July 2022

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