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Province changes working age rules

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The changes to employment standards will raise the general working age in British Columbia from 12 to 16 and redefine the types of jobs appropriate for those under 16.

The provincial government has said the new rules – which take effect Oct. 15 – will bring British Columbia into line with international standards for the employment of children.

The changes made to the Employment Standards Act were initiated by law in the spring of 2019. Consultations were held with more than 1,700 young people, parents and employers from several sectors before finalizing the changes this year.

14 and 15 year olds will still be able to do many jobs, defined as “light work”, with the permission of a parent or guardian. In some cases, children between the ages of 14 and 15 may be allowed to perform work outside the definition of light work with a permit issued by the Employment Standards Branch of the Ministry of Labor.

Here are some examples of light work suitable for 14 and 15 year olds:

• work in a leisure and sports club, as a lifeguard, trainer, golf caddy, camp instructor, referee and referee;

• light work on the farm and garden, such as gardening, harvesting by hand, clearing leaves and snow, and mowing grass;

• administrative and secretarial work;

• retail work, such as shelving storage, packing orders, display layout, sales and checkout;

• catering work, such as transporting tables, preparing food, dishes and serving food and non-alcoholic beverages;

• skilled and technical work, such as computer programmer, visual artists, graphic designer, writer and editor.

The new rules do not prevent children from babysitting or delivering newspapers part-time, nor do they prohibit students from participating in a work-study or work experience course.

The current rules will continue to apply to young performers in recorded and live performances.

Children aged 12 and over may 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 regulations.

Before these changes, British Columbia was the only province in Canada that allowed the employment of children as young as 12 years old.

In some cases, depending on the provincial government, this has involved hazardous situations or environments, such as construction sites or heavy industry facilities. As a result, data from WorkSafeBC shows that more than $ 1.1 million was paid in employment-related disability claims for workers aged 14 and under between 2007 and 2016.

The government said work was also underway to define “hazardous work” for 16-18 year olds, with regulatory changes expected later this year to put the legislation into effect.

Suitable light work for 14 and 15 year olds includes:

• the cashier

• golf cart

• courier or courier

• performing artist

• arbitrator or arbitrator

• server of food or drink, other than alcohol

• summer or day camp leader

• visual artist or graphic designer

• programmer

• lifeguard or lifeguard

• peer counselor

• recreation or community programs worker

• seller, other than door-to-door

• sports or recreational coach or instructor

• tutor or instructor

• writer, editor or similar

Occupations or situations that are now generally considered dangerous for young people under the age of 16 include:

• repair, maintain or operate heavy machinery;

• places where a minor is not allowed to enter;

• construction sites, heavy manufacturing and heavy industrial works;

• sites designed to maintain an oxygen-poor or toxic atmosphere;

• walk-in freezers or cold rooms, other than for placing or retrieving an item;

• handling substances that minors cannot legally buy, use or distribute;

• lifting, transporting or moving heavy objects or animals; and

• use, handle or apply hazardous substances, such as pesticides.


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