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
- 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.