Business owners and business advisors need to be aware that all employers must comply with Western Australia's laws on employment of children. The Children and Community Services Act 2004 regulates where, when, and at what age children can be employed.
In most industries, children under 15 cannot be employed unless they are working in a family business run by a relative or in a not for profit organisation.
Children aged 10, 11 or 12 are allowed to deliver newspapers or advertising material, but they cannot work during school hours and cannot start work before 6am or finish later than 7pm. Workers of this age must be accompanied at all times by a parent, or another adult who has written permission from their parents.
Under the Children and Community Services Act there are some workplaces in which children aged 13 or 14 are permitted to work. Children of this age can work in a shop, fast food outlet, cafe or restaurant but they are not allowed to work before 6am or after 10pm and must not work within school hours. They can also deliver newspapers or advertising material, or collect shopping trolleys from a retail outlet or adjacent area, with the same hours restrictions. Employers must also have written permission from the child's parent or guardian before employing children of this age.
Breaches of the Children and Community Services Act attract penalties of up to $120,000 if the employer is a body corporate.
A few years ago a Perth business was fined $30,000 by Industrial Magistartes Court for illegally employing a total of 16 children across three fast food outlets. The fine was the result of 16 charges under the Children and Community Services Act of unlawfully employing children aged less than 15 years. The charges arose out of the employer working the children on 153 seperate occasions in shifts of work that were completed after 10pm. In one instance a 14 year old employee was rostered to work until 1am.
The When children can work in Western Australia page offers a range of resources to help employers comply with children in employment laws, including a template form for written parental permission and a fact sheet and self-audit checklist for fast food and retail employers who may employ 13 or 14 year old workers.