A Port Fairy bakery has been fined $5000 in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court after repeatedly breaching child employment laws, which help keep kids under 15 safe in the workplace.
Wage Inspectorate Victoria, the state’s child employment regulator, filed charges against the operators of Cobb’s Bakery in November 2022 alleging breaches of child employment laws, having investigated an anonymous tip-off it received.
Just weeks after the charges were served, the Wage Inspectorate received 2 more tip-offs, including from a former employee of the bakery, alleging Cobb’s Bakery was continuing to breach the law by employing kids under 15 without permits. Following an investigation, the Wage Inspectorate laid additional charges.
Today, the operators of Cobb’s Bakery pleaded guilty to:
- 12 charges for employing 5 children under the age of 15 without a permit – 4 charges resulting from the first investigation, and 8 charges stemming from the second.
- 4 charges for failing to ensure the children were supervised by someone with a Working with Children Clearance, resulting from the first investigation.
In sentencing, her Honour Magistrate Howe noted that the obligation is on the business to make sure they’re aware of child employment laws, with ignorance being no excuse for doing the wrong thing.
Her Honour stated children often won’t know their rights in the workplace, nor will their parents – it’s up to the employer to make sure they’re kept safe.
Her Honour did not record a conviction, taking into account the bakery’s contribution to the small community and the lack of prior offending.
The Wage Inspectorate has taken 11 businesses to court this year over alleged child employment breaches.
Quotes attributable to Acting Commissioner of Wage Inspectorate Victoria, Lily Dekic
“Cobb’s Bakery continued to breach the law after being charged, which shows a blatant disregard for the welfare of kids and the law, and that’s behaviour the Wage Inspectorate won’t stand for.”
“Businesses shouldn’t expect to get away with this type of behaviour – community members look out for the wellbeing of kids and will tip us off when they see something that’s not right, as we’ve seen in this instance.”
“Cobb’s Bakery 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.”
“Today’s judgment should be a reminder to all businesses thinking about employing kids over the school holidays. Child employment licences are free and easy to apply for, and the Wage Inspectorate is here to help.”
An employer usually needs a permit or licence to employ someone under 15, whether the work is paid or voluntary. Employing a child without a permit or 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.
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.
Further information can be found at wageinspectorate.vic.gov.au.
Anna Basil-Jones - 0428 627 002