14 and 9 months - that's a myth

Wage Inspectorate Victoria today released the results of a regional campaign which found many employers mistakenly believed children need to be 14 and 9 months to work in Victoria.

Tuesday, 4 October 2022 at 9:44 pm

Child employment officers hit the streets of Phillip Island, Drouin, Warragul, Wonthaggi, Inverloch and surrounding areas over four days earlier this year, visiting almost 100 fast food outlets, restaurants and cafes to educate businesses about the need to apply for a child employment permit if they employ anyone under 15 years.

They found many employers were not aware they could employ kids to do delivery work once they had turned 11, and to work in other roles from 13 years, provided they obtained a permit from the Wage Inspectorate.

The permit system, which becomes an even simpler licensing scheme from 1 July 2023, enables the Wage Inspectorate to check the proposed work is safe and appropriate for children under 15.

During the campaign, the Wage Inspectorate checked 225 businesses for compliance with child employment laws, which included unannounced visits to 86 businesses.

Almost 80% of businesses employing children under 15 did not have child employment permits, with the Wage Inspectorate completing comprehensive investigations into each of them. Half the businesses found to be non-compliant with the law were in the Phillip Island and San Remo areas.

Most non-compliant employers fully cooperated with the Wage Inspectorate and were educated about their obligations. They were also put on notice that any future non-compliance with the law would be met with more serious penalties, while one employer remains under investigation.

Consequences for breaking the law range from warnings to fines of more than $18,000 for companies and $11,000 for individuals, while parents can be fined about $2000 for letting their child work for an employer without a permit.

Child employment permits are free and the online application process to receive one is straightforward. Employers can apply online at wageinspectorate.vic.gov.au.

The new licensing system comes into effect from 1 July 2023 as part of changes to Victoria’s child employment laws that will strengthen protections for kids and make it easier for employers to understand their obligations.

The Wage Inspectorate has prosecuted five employers for breaches of child employment laws since 2020.

Quotes attributable to Lily Dekic, Acting Commissioner of Wage Inspectorate Victoria

“14 and 9 months used to be the age at which kids could leave school and enter the workforce, which is where this myth has come from. But Victoria’s child employment laws say nothing about being 14 and 9 months and they haven’t for a very long time.”

“While it’s disappointing many employers of kids under 15 did not have a child employment permit, our child employment officers have ensured they’re now fully aware of their obligations.” 

“If employers fail to apply for permits, we’re unable to assess the risk of employment to a child and check that their health, safety and welfare will be protected, potentially putting the child at risk.”

“Parents also have a responsibility to ensure their child isn’t working for a business that has not obtained a child employment permit. They can be hit with a significant fine and, more seriously, their child may be exposed to inappropriate work or unsafe conditions.”

View the campaign report


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