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Employment Relations, Industrial Relations

Child employment watchdog issues school holiday warning to regional businesses

Wage Inspectorate Victoria 2 mins read

Regional businesses intending to hire kids over the summer school holidays, to help manage seasonal demand, are being urged to apply for a child employment licence now to avoid falling foul of workplace laws.

The warning from Victoria’s child employment watchdog, Wage Inspectorate Victoria, comes after it has prosecuted 8 regional businesses over child employment laws over the last 12 months.

In Victoria, businesses can hire kids as young as 13 in industries such as retail and hospitality, but they need a licence to employ anyone under 15. A business can employ multiple children under one licence, and must adhere to rules around supervision, work hours, and rest breaks.

Employing kids under 15 over summer can be win-win, with businesses getting enthusiastic staff to help manage the peak season, and kids getting valuable experience and earning spending money. But the Wage Inspectorate warns that it needs to be done safely and legally or businesses may be subject to fines of more than $200,000.

Research shows kids in regional and rural areas are more likely to work than those in metropolitan Melbourne, so it is particularly important that businesses in these areas are aware of the law and get a licence before hiring anyone under 15.

In the last fortnight alone, a Shepparton ice creamery was convicted and fined $4,500 and a Gippsland pizza restaurant was fined $4,000 after both pleaded guilty to breaking child employment laws.

Quotes attributable to Robert Hortle, Commissioner of Wage Inspectorate Victoria 

"We know child employment is more common in regional and rural Victoria, particularly in holiday hotspots, so I urge businesses to familiarise themselves with the law. The Wage Inspectorate would much rather help local businesses employ kids safely and legally than take more matters to court, so reach out to get the advice you need."

"Kids under 15 cannot start work until the business has a licence. So, if you don’t apply for a licence in time, you risk having to delay the child’s start date or finding yourself on the wrong side of the law, which can be costly."

"Child employment licences are free, the laws are easy to understand and the Wage Inspectorate is here to help, so there’s really no excuse for noncompliance."

"Kids under 15 are still developing and don’t have the judgment or stamina of adults, so they need proper supervision, rest breaks, a suitable gap between shifts, and they shouldn’t be working late. The message is simple – getting informed is the first step to complying."

"Parents have a role to play here too. If your child is under 15 and starting their first job over summer, make sure the employer has a child employment licence. It’s a simple step you can take to ensure they have considered your child’s wellbeing."

Contact details:

Anna Basil-Jones - 0428 627 002

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