Child employment watchdog issues school holiday warning

Tuesday, 21 November 2023 at 6:09 am

Businesses intending to hire kids over the summer school holidays are being urged to apply for a child employment licence now to avoid falling foul of workplace laws.

The warning from Victoria’s child employment watchdog, Wage Inspectorate Victoria, comes after it has taken 11 businesses to court over child employment laws over the last 12 months. 

In Victoria, businesses can hire kids as young as 13 in industries such as retail and hospitality, but they need a licence to employ anyone under 15. A business can employ multiple children under one licence, and must adhere to rules around supervision, work hours, and rest breaks.

Employing kids under 15 over school holidays can be win-win, with businesses getting enthusiastic staff to help manage the festive season, and kids getting valuable experience and earning spending money. But the Wage Inspectorate warns that it needs to be done safely and legally or businesses may be subject to fines of more than $200,000.

The child employment licensing system helps protect kids by ensuring the employer understands workplace risks and has measures in place to keep young people safe, and that it knows about rules relating to supervision, rest breaks and working hours.

Wage Inspectorate officers will be inspecting businesses across the holiday period again this summer to ensure those employing children under 15 have a licence. 

During the last summer holidays, its officers inspected 169 businesses across Melbourne, resulting in 29 suspected offences being identified, 3 businesses receiving cautions and another being taken to court.

Quotes attributable to Robert Hortle, Commissioner of Wage Inspectorate Victoria 

"All workplaces have risks, and these are magnified for young, inexperienced employees, so businesses need a licence to employ anyone under 15, and to comply with rules around supervision hours of work and rest breaks."

"Kids under 15 cannot start work until the business has a licence. So, if you don’t apply for a licence in time, you risk having to delay the child’s start date or finding yourself on the wrong side of the law, which can be costly."

"The Wage Inspectorate has taken 11 businesses to court this year over alleged child employment breaches and we’ve seen businesses convicted and fined up to $10,000. But we’d much rather help businesses employ kids safely and legally than take more matters to court."

"Child employment licences are free, the laws are easy to understand and the Wage Inspectorate is here to help, so there’s really no excuse for noncompliance."

"Parents have a role to play here too. If your child is under 15 and starting their first job over summer, make sure the employer has a child employment licence. It’s a simple step you can take to ensure they have considered your child’s wellbeing."