Child employment campaign busts myths and boosts awareness

In April 2022, the Wage Inspectorate Victoria undertook a proactive compliance campaign targeting the employment of children in the fast food, restaurant and cafe (FRAC) industry in regional Victoria.

Tuesday, 4 October 2022 at 9:00 pm

The purpose of the campaign was to:

  • increase awareness of the Wage Inspectorate’s role as Victoria’s child employment regulator
  • educate business owners on the requirements under Victorian child employment laws
  • check compliance amongst FRAC entities that employ children
  • investigate any offences detected.

The campaign focused on employers in regional Victoria who operated FRAC businesses. Phillip Island, Drouin, Warragul, Wonthaggi and Inverloch were the target areas for the following reasons:

  • Phillip Island and Inverloch are traditionally popular school holiday and tourist destinations.
  • Warragul and Drouin had undergone a significant increase in population, when compared with the regional Victoria average.

Authorised Child Employment Officers:

  • checked on compliance with 225 businesses during the campaign
  • issued 158 notices to produce documents in order to check on compliance prior to the field visit operation
  • conducted 86 unannounced site visits over 4 days (19 of these visits were to businesses that did not respond to the previously issued notice to produce).

Areas visited

Number of businesses visited by Child Employment Officers in each region in Victoria
Region Site visits
Phillip Island/San Remo 36
Moe 11
Warragal/Drouin 22
Inverloch/Wonthaggi 2
Yarragon/Trafalgar 15
Total 86

Our findings

Of the 225 businesses that the Child Employment team audited, 21 businesses were found to have employed children.

  • 76% of businesses that employed children did not have permits and were not compliant with the law.
  • These businesses that did not have a permit were referred for comprehensive investigation.
  • 50% of the businesses that did not comply with the Child Employment permit laws were located in the Phillip Island/San Remo region.
  • Many businesses that were visited as part of the campaign had advised they were unaware that they could employ children under the age of 15 years with the appropriately issued permit.

Further, many business owners/managers stated that they believed that children could be legally employed at 14 years and 9 months of age, which is not true. This myth is widespread among the Victorian community and has reinforced one of the purposes of the campaign to educate business owners about the requirements under Victorian child employment laws.

Information regarding child employment laws and the permit system including tools, resources and online videos can be accessed on the Wage Inspectorate’s website.

Image highlighting results from the fast food, restaurants and cafes campaign

Actions taken and next steps

The businesses that were referred for investigation:

  • had all admitted to Child Employment Officers that they employed children without having been issued the required permit
  • the majority had advised that they were not aware of the laws in relation to child employment
  • the majority had immediately taken steps to apply for the required permit and cease employment of the child until the permit had been issued.

Of the businesses referred for investigation:

  • 15 (94%) were resolved by further investigation that culminated in voluntary compliance, education and enforcement tools such as Letters of Warning. These businesses have been put on notice and warned that any future non-compliance will be taken seriously and may result in legal action.
  • One (6%) business is still under investigation for non-compliance with child employment laws.

Recent enforcement action

Consequences for breaking Victoria’s child employment laws can include a formal warning, right through to a prosecution. A prosecution is the Wage Inspectorate’s most serious compliance tool, and decisions to prosecute are made in line with our Compliance and Enforcement Policy.

Recent child employment court outcomes include: