BCLI recommendations on child employment to be implemented in October 2021
July 23, 2021
BY Greg Blue
Forthcoming changes to employment standards for children and young workers announced in a news release on 21 July 2021 by the Ministry of Labour will implement recommendations contained in BCLI’s 2018 Report on the Employment Standards Act.
BCLI’s report pointed out that the statutory rules in effect in BC for employment of children deviate from Canadian and international standards on the minimum age for employment and the kinds of work in which juvenile workers may legally engage. BC is the only province that allows employment as low as age 12 in virtually any form of work with parental consent as the sole requirement.
The Ministry of Labour announcement refers to WorkSafeBC statistics on the cost of disability claims for workers 14 and under that are also mentioned in the BCLI report. These statistics demonstrate the fact that every year in BC, very young workers are seriously injured in hazardous working environments.
Our 2018 report recommended bringing BC’s standards for employment of children and young persons into line with those in the rest of Canada and the terms of international treaties on child labour that Canada has ratified. Specifically, our report recommended that:
- employment of persons under 16 in forms of work likely to endanger their health, safety, or moral development be prohibited;
- a minimum age be set between 16 and 19 for employment in hazardous work;
- employment below the age of 14 should require a permit from the Director of Employment Standards in addition to parental consent, except in recorded and live entertainment (for which there are existing special standards);
- employment at 14 and 15 should be allowed only with parental consent in legally designated forms of “light work” (a term deriving from international standards) or by a special permit from the Director of Employment Standards;
- the existing special standards for children working in the recorded and live entertainment sector (which includes the film, television, live theatre and music industries) should remain in effect.
The BC Legislature passed amendments to the Employment Standards Act in 2019 that are consistent with the BCLI recommendations, but the amendments did not come into force immediately. The announcement by the Ministry of Labour on 21 July 2021 indicates that in the meantime, the Ministry consulted with employers, parents, and youth before finalizing the categories of “light work” open to 14- and 15-year-olds. The categories of light work authorized for that age group are listed in the backgrounder attached to the Ministry’s news release.
The new rules for employment of 14- and 15-year-olds in light work are to come into effect on 15 October 2021. The Ministry’s news release indicates that the process of designating categories of hazardous work from which 16- to 18-year-olds will be excluded is continuing.