A fashion company that owns and licences various iconic brands including Clarks, Hush Puppies, Mossimo and Superdry has been fined after pleading guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court last week to 5 charges for breaching Victoria’s child employment laws.
The charges were filed by Wage Inspectorate Victoria against Brand Collective Pty Ltd (Brand Collective) for breaches of the Child Employment Act 2003 (the Act).
The company pleaded guilty to breaching sections 9 and 11 of the Act by failing to obtain child employment permits when it employed 2 children, aged 13 and 11 years, during school hours for a fashion photoshoot in October 2019.
Under the Act, employers need a permit before a child under 15 years of age can be employed, although there are exemptions for children employed in family businesses.
In addition, an approved application from the Wage Inspectorate is required for an exemption from school if the work will take place during school hours.
Brand Collective had previously applied for and been granted child employment permits for previous shoots, demonstrating it was aware of its obligation to obtain them.
Child Employment Officers became aware of the alleged breaches after receiving a school exemption application for one of the children, despite there being no corresponding child employment permit.
Brand Collective also pleaded guilty to breaching section 32 of the Act, admitting that it failed to abide by Victoria’s Mandatory Code of Practice (the Code) for the employment of children in the entertainment industry.
The company failed to provide information about the Code to the parents or guardians of the children, which is a legal requirement, and meet other obligations including obtaining parental consent for the employment, and consent to medical treatment, should it have been required.
In sentencing, her Honour Magistrate Bolger accepted the company’s acknowledgement of wrongdoing and early plea to the charges. Her Honour also accepted that no child was “harmed, mistreated or ill-used” during the photoshoot and that the company had no prior convictions.
The court, without conviction, sentenced the company to pay an aggregate fine of $1,000. The company was ordered to pay $4,000 towards the Wage Inspectorate’s costs.
The Wage Inspectorate works cooperatively with employers to help them understand their rights and obligations under Victoria’s child employment framework and the other laws in its remit.
A prosecution is the Wage Inspectorate’s most serious compliance tool and decisions to take legal action are made in line with its Compliance and Enforcement Policy.
Wage Inspectorate Victoria enforces state laws covering child employment, long service leave, and independent contractors in the transport and forestry sectors.
From 1 July 2021, the Wage Inspectorate becomes an independent statutory authority under the Wage Theft Act 2020, which makes the dishonest underpayment of employees a crime under state law.
Quotes attributable to Commissioner of Wage Inspectorate Victoria, Robert Hortle
“It’s very disappointing that this well-established company, whose products are worn by many Victorians, failed to meet its lawful obligations, despite being well aware of the Child Employment Act’s requirements having previously applied for child employment permits.”
“To help ensure the safety and welfare of children in the workplace, employers must meet their obligations under the Child Employment Act each and every time. This is an absolute must as children are among the most vulnerable in our community, especially in the workplace.”
“If employers fail to apply for child employment 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.”
“Most employers are only too willing to do the right thing, and we’re here to provide the information and support they need to comply. However, we will take enforcement action when it’s needed to ensure that Victoria’s child employment laws are upheld.”
Reviewed 23 June 2021