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Working when under 18

Who do these laws apply to and why do they exist?

Special child employment laws apply to all children and young people under 18.

These laws aim to:

  • protect you from doing work that may be harmful to your health and safety, or physical, mental, moral and social welfare
  • ensure that work does not interfere with your education when you are supposed to be at school.

There are two main categories of children and young people they deal with:

  • school-aged children who are under 16 and should be enrolled in school
  • children working in the entertainment industry.

What do these laws do?

These laws place restrictions on:

  • the age you can work
  • the type of work you can do
  • the number of hours that you can work when you are attending school.

There are no age restrictions on doing voluntary work or working in the entertainment industry (special laws apply there-see below).

Generally the minimum age for employment is 13 years. But children 11-13 can do supervised delivery work that involves delivering newspapers or other advertising material between the hours of 6am and 6pm.

The age you can work if you are attending school is 13. The maximum allowable hours of work for school-aged children are:

On a school day

On a non-school day

During a school week

During a non-school week





 A young child (who is not old enough to go to school, i.e. up to 6.5 years) can work (e.g. babies acting in a TV commercial) for up to four hours on a non-school day and 12 hours per week on a non-school week.

If you have not yet completed year 10 and are under 16 years, you are not allowed to work between 10 pm and 6 am. There are additional restrictions for children aged between 11 and 13 years of age carrying out delivery work between the hours of 6am and 6pm.    

These restrictions relating to age and hours of work do not apply where you are employed in your family's business or in the entertainment industry (special laws apply there - see below).

What sort of work do these laws cover?

Work is defined by these laws very broadly to cover lots of different arrangements including contracts of service, working in a business carried on for profit or working as a supervisor.

Work does not include domestic chores which are carried out as part of a family obligation.

These laws do not apply to work carried out as part of:

  • work experience
  • vocational placements
  • apprenticeships
  • traineeships
  • charitable collections covered by other legislation.

What do my parents have to do?

Under these laws your parents are required to agree. These laws make it illegal for an employer to employ a school-aged child until they have got a signed parent's consent form.

A parent also commits an offence if they employ or permit their child to be employed during school hours unless they have a reasonable excuse.

The parent's consent form must be signed by your parent and include information for the employer about the hours when you are required to be at school. A new form must be completed when those hours change.

What does my employer have to do?

These laws make it illegal for an employer to employ a school-aged child until they have got a signed parent's consent form. The employer must keep the signed consent form on your file.

These laws set out offences and penalties for employers who do not comply with the law.

Inspectors monitor compliance and investigate and deal with any allegations that these laws have been broken.

What is a special circumstances certificate?

You can apply to the Director-General of the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation for a certificate to say that certain restrictions don't apply to you. For instance that restrictions about the hours or type of work you can do, don't apply to you.

You can apply for this special circumstances certificate if you are a young person who is living independently to say that you do not require a parent's consent form.

These certificates may only be granted if the Director-General reasonably believes that what you are asking:

  • won't interfere with your schooling
  • won't be harmful to your health or safety or physical, mental, moral or social development.

What if I work in the entertainment industry?

Special child employment laws apply to you if you work in the entertainment industry. There is no minimum age that applies if you work in the entertainment industry but special regulations have been created about:

  • maximum hours you can work and hours you can't work
  • shifts and breaks
  • when supervision is required by adults.

What is a work limitation notice?

The Director-General of the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation may stop you from doing work that would ordinarily be okay or stop you from working for a particular employer by issuing a work limitation notice.

The Director-General will only issue a work limitation notice if it is reasonably believed that the work may interfere with your schooling or be harmful to your health or safety or your physical, mental, moral or social development.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you

  • want to know what effect the Child Employment laws have on your ability to work
  • are having issues with your apprenticeship or traineeship
  • have been sacked from your job
  • have had a change in your employment conditions that you are not happy with
  • are unsure about signing an employment contract or workplace agreement.

Get legal advice

Legal Aid Queensland may provide legal advice about employment and work related issues.

The following organisations may also be able to give legal advice on your matter.

Caxton Legal Centre—Employment law advice service can give advice about unfair, unlawful and constructive dismissal, workplace bullying and discrimination matters. Contact them to find out if they can help. 

Youth Advocacy Centre provides a community legal and social welfare service for young people up to 18 years. 

Lawmail is a legal advice service for young people that provides free legal advice to people under 18 via email.

YFS Legal provides legal information and advice to young people aged under 25.

LGBTI Legal Service gives free legal advice and information to LGBTI clients, including legal advice relating to employment.

Community legal centres give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to see if they can help with your matter.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor for advice or representation

Who else can help?

The following organisations may be able to help you with your employment matter. They do not give legal advice.

Commonwealth Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) provides information and advice on workplace laws, rights and obligations, and investigates complaints and suspected contraventions of workplace laws, awards and agreements. FWO can help if you have been working under a sham contract preventing you from being paid entitlements.

Fair Work Commission is the national workplace relations tribunal and can provide information about unfair dismissals, general protections, workplace bullying and harassment and how to lodge an application.

Apprenticeships Info provides free advice, referrals and support to all Queenslanders about apprenticeships, traineeships and training options.

Office of Industrial Relations - Queensland provides information about workplace relations including long service leave, child employment, private employment agents, trading hours, workers' accommodation, public holidays and wages and conditions for public sector and local government employees.

Queensland Industrial Relations Commission is an independent tribunal established to conciliate and arbitrate industrial matters in Queensland. QIRC provide information about whether you are covered by State or Federal legislation.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland  is the state government department that deals with complaints about workplace harassment, safety and fatigue. They also provide information on making a complaint internally through your workplace, or externally through their complaints process.

Department of Industry - Single Business Service provides information and referral services to independent contractors.

Australian Council of Trade Unions if you are a union member, you can seek assistance on employment matters from your own union.

Queensland Human Rights Commission provides information and resolve complaints about discrimination in public life, including in the workplace.

Australian Human Rights Commission provides information on human rights and resolve complaints about discrimination or breaches of human rights under federal laws.

Queensland Working Women's Service provides a free, confidential advisory service to help Queensland women with work related matters. QWWS may also assist with advocacy and referrals regarding industrial relations matters including employment rights, unfair dismissal, discrimination and harassment.

Financial counselling can help if you are experiencing financial difficulty because of illness or job loss. They may be able to assist in arranging for payments to be reduced or postponed. have information for young people about workplace bullying, including how to recognise bullying behaviour and how to get help.

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