Cold Rock Shepparton has been slapped with a conviction and fined $4500 in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to 16 breaches of Victoria’s child employment laws.
The conviction is the second time the ice creamery has been reprimanded for breaching child employment laws, having received a formal caution for doing so in 2021.
Wage Inspectorate Victoria, the state’s child employment regulator, began investigating G & K Pearse Pty Ltd, trading as Cold Rock Shepparton, in October 2022 after receiving an anonymous tip-off alleging a 13-year-old child was working long hours and had, at one point, worked for eight days straight.
Today, in relation to the employment of 6 children, Cold Rock Shepparton pleaded guilty to:
- employing children for more hours than they are permitted to work on 44 occasions
- employing children later than 9pm on 34 occasions
- failing to provide a rest break of at least 30 minutes after every 3 hours work on 20 occasions.
The offences took place over a 6 month period between 17 April and 23 October 2022.
In sentencing, her Honour Magistrate Howe noted that a member of the public was so concerned for a child’s welfare that they took it upon themselves to report the employment to the Wage Inspectorate.
Her Honour said it was an aggravating factor that the business knew about child employment laws but made no efforts to educate themselves in order to comply with their obligations.
Her Honour said the sentence should send a message to all employers about the need to protect their vulnerable workers.
Quotes attributable to Robert Hortle, Commissioner of Wage Inspectorate Victoria
“This isn’t the first time Cold Rock Shepparton has come to the Wage Inspectorate’s attention. We issued a formal warning to this business back in 2021 and took the time to clearly explain the laws. The fact that they’ve reoffended shows a disregard for the welfare of kids and the law, and that’s behaviour the Wage Inspectorate won’t stand for.”
“Children don’t have the same mental or physical stamina as adults, so they can’t work the same hours, and they certainly shouldn’t be working for eight days straight. It’s concerning to see a business that employed 6 children ignoring child employment laws, which it was fully aware of.”
“Most adults wouldn’t work for 8 days straight, let alone a child under 15. With laws this simple, and the amount of help available, there really is no excuse for not complying”.
“Cold Rock Shepparton is the type of business where many kids get their first job, so it’s important they comply with the law and provide a safe environment. Kids don’t have the experience, stamina or judgement of more experienced workers, so they need the employer to consider their welfare.”
“Applying for a licence is the first step when employing kids under 15, but there are other important laws employers must follow, like ensuring kids are getting adequate rest breaks and working appropriate hours.”
“This outcome will raise questions for franchisors too. While this judgement was against a franchisee, the community doesn’t differentiate – they expect big brand franchises to help ensure safe, compliant workplaces for young people. There is huge risk in being passive”
About the laws
An employer usually needs a licence to employ someone under 15, whether the work is paid or voluntary. Employing a child without a licence is a crime and may be penalised.
Workers under 15 must be supervised by someone who holds a Victorian Working with Children Clearance (unless exempt).
Child employment laws restrict when businesses can employ children and how long they can work:
- during a school term, children can be employed for a maximum of 3 hours a day and 12 hours per week
- during school holidays, children can be employed up to 6 hours a day and 30 hours a week
- children can only work between 6am and 9pm (unless street-trading).
Children must also receive a 30-minute rest break after every 3 hours work and have at least 12 hours break between shifts.
The prosecution against Cold Rock Shepparton follows other recent prosecutions commenced by the Wage Inspectorate:
- Earlier this week, a Gippsland restaurant was fined $4000 for child employment breaches.
- In October, a Muffin Break store was convicted and fined $10,000 for child employment breaches.
- In July, a Phillip Island café was fined $2000 after pleading guilty to employing a child below the minimum working age.
- In June, a Barwon Heads fish and chip shop was convicted and fined $4000 for breaking child employment laws.
A prosecution is the Wage Inspectorate’s most serious compliance tool and decisions to take legal action are made in line with its Compliance and Enforcement Policy.
Anna Basil-Jones - 0428 627 002