New rules for young workers in B.C. take effect

General working age now up to 16 from 12

New rules for young workers in B.C. take effect

Changes to British Columbia’s Employment Standards Act regarding young workers are now in effect.

First announced in July, the rule now states that the general working age in the province has jumped to 16 from 12. Previously, B.C. was the only province in Canada whose general minimum working age was as young as 12.

“Work experience can be a rewarding growth opportunity for young people, but it should never compromise their safety,” Harry Bains, minister of labour, previously said. “We know that most employers make safety their top priority for all their workers, and these changes clarify what types of employment are age-appropriate for young workers.”

Occupations or situations that are now generally considered as unsafe for youth under 16 include:

  • repairing, maintaining or operating heavy machinery
  • places where a minor is not permitted to enter
  • sites of construction, heavy manufacturing, heavy industrial work
  • sites designed to retain an oxygen-deficient or toxic atmosphere
  • walk-in freezers or coolers, other than to place or retrieve an item
  • handling substances that minors cannot legally purchase, use or distribute
  • lifting, carrying or moving heavy items or animals
  • using, handling or applying hazardous substances like pesticides

Meanwhile, youth aged 14 and 15 can do many "appropriate" jobs defined as “light work” with permission from a parent or guardian. These include:

  • cashier
  • computer programmer
  • golf caddy
  • lifeguard or lifeguard assistant
  • messenger or courier
  • peer counsellor
  • performing artist
  • recreation or community program attendant
  • referee or umpire
  • salesperson, other than door-to-door
  • server of food or drink, other than alcohol
  • sports or recreational coach or instructor
  • summer or day camp leader
  • tutor or instructor
  • visual artist or graphic designer
  • writer, editor or similar

In some cases, children aged 14 and 15 may be permitted to do work outside the definition of light work with a permit from the Ministry of Labour’s Employment Standards Branch.

The new rules do not prevent children from babysitting or delivering newspapers part time, or students from working in a work-study or work experience class, which are among the jobs excluded from the new rules.

Meanwhile, children aged 12 and older can 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 regulation.

The legislation for the changes in the act was initiated in 2019.

Young workers are keeping quiet about hazardous working conditions, according to a study released in 2015.

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