New rules are being implemented to protect young workers in B.C.

New rules are being implemented to protect young workers in B.C.

The province announced it will be raising the general working age from 12 to 16 and defining the types of jobs appropriate for those under 16.

Officials explained Employment Standards Act changes will go into effect on Oct. 15.

“Work experience can be a rewarding growth opportunity for young people, but it should never compromise their safety,” said Harry Bains, minister of labour, in a statement. “We know that most employers make safety their top priority for all their workers, and these changes clarify what types of employment are age-appropriate for young workers.

Before the changes, B.C. was the only part of the country that allowed the employment of children as young as 12. Officials stated in some cases this involved hazardous situations or environments, such as construction sites or heavy-industry settings.

“As a result, young workers are injured on the job every year, with WorkSafeBC data reporting more than $1.1 million paid in job-related disability claims for workers 14 or younger between 2007 and 2016,” reads a release from the province.

The changes were initiated through legislation in spring 2019. Consultations were held with more than 1,700 youth, parents and employers from multiple sectors prior to finalizing the changes this year.

Under the new rules, children aged 14 and 15 will be allowed to do “light work” with permission from a parent or guardian. In some cases, children aged 14 and 15 may be permitted to do work outside the definition of light work with a permit from the Ministry of Labour’s Employment Standards Branch.  

Examples of light work appropriate for 14 and 15-year-olds include:

  • Recreation and sports club work, such as lifeguard, coach, golf caddy, camp counsellor, referee and umpire;
  • light farm and yard work, such as gardening, harvesting by hand, clearing leaves and snow, and grass cutting;
  • administrative and secretarial work;
  • retail work, such as stocking shelves, packaging orders, laying out displays, sales and cashier;
  • food service work, such as busing tables, preparing food, dishwashing and serving food and non-alcoholic drinks; and
  • skilled and technical work, such as computer programmer, visual artists, graphic designer, writer and editor.

Officials added the new rules do not prevent children from babysitting or delivering newspapers part time, or students from working in a work study or work experience class.

As well, the current rules will continue to apply to young performers in recorded and live entertainment. Children aged 12 and above can continue to be employed in a business or on a farm owned by an immediate family member as long as the work meets the safety criteria set out in the regulation.

Legislators are also working on defining “hazardous work” for 16 to 18-year-olds, with regulatory changes expected later this year to bring the legislation into force.

“We are committed to protecting B.C.’s workers of all ages from unsafe working conditions and unfair labour practices,” Bains said. “And we are improving B.C.’s employment standards to reflect the evolving needs of our workplaces. I look forward to continuing that work.”