Child employment watchdog announces Christmas compliance blitz

Wage Inspectorate Victoria has launched a campaign to check retail businesses employing kids under 15 years of age are complying with the state’s child employment laws.

Published:
Thursday, 8 December 2022 at 7:00 pm

The child employment watchdog is putting boots on the ground, ensuring that seasonal demand and extended opening hours don’t lead businesses to overlook child employment laws in a rush to fill vacant positions, potentially placing inexperienced workers in harm’s way.

The campaign will see child employment officers visiting stores in some of Melbourne’s busiest shopping centres in the lead up to Christmas and across the school holidays – educating employers about child employment laws and checking compliance.

In Victoria, retailers can hire kids as young as 13, but they typically need a permit before employing anyone under 15.

The permit system enables the Wage Inspectorate to ensure employers have considered matters like safety, hours of work, rest breaks and supervision before employment starts.

If an employer fails to apply for a permit, the Wage Inspectorate is unable to assess the risk of employment to the child and check that their health, safety and welfare will be protected, potentially putting them at risk.

Child employment permits are free and the online application process to have one issued is straightforward. Employers can apply online.

Businesses breaking child employment laws face consequences ranging from warnings to fines of more than $18,000. Parents can be fined up to $1,800 for letting their child work for an employer without a permit.

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

Quotes attributable to Robert Hortle, Commissioner of Wage Inspectorate Victoria

“Child employment officers will be among the shopping centre crowds this Christmas, monitoring compliance with child employment laws, which are in place to keep kids safe.”

“All workplaces have risks, and these are magnified for young, inexperienced employees, so retailers need a permit to employ a child under 15, and to comply with rules around hours of work, rest breaks and start and finish times.”

“Kids under 15 are still developing. They don’t have the stamina of adults, so it is vital they receive adequate rest breaks, have enough down-time between shifts and are well supervised. The permit system helps ensure the employer understands the risks and puts measures in place to keep young staff safe.”

“Parents have a role to play too. If you have a child under 15 who has just secured a summer job, make sure the employer has a child employment permit before they start work. It’s a simple step you can take to ensure the employer has considered your child’s health and wellbeing.”

Updated