New rules coming for hiring young workers

Alberta, Manitoba aligning youth employment rules with international obligations


New rules for employing young people will soon apply in Alberta and Manitoba.

In the past year, both provinces have passed amendments to their employment standards laws to better align youth employment rules with Canada’s international labour obligations.

In June of 2016, Canada ratified the International Labour Organization’s (ILO’s) Minimum Age Convention, 1973, also called Convention 138. It came into force here in June 2017.

The ILO is a United Nations agency made up of representatives from government, employers, and workers. Its mandate is to set international labour standards and to develop policies and programs to promote decent working conditions.

Convention 138 requires countries ratifying it to set a minimum age for full-time employment at either 15 years or the age at which going to school is no longer compulsory, which is at least 16 throughout Canada.

“The intent of the convention is to prevent children from leaving school to join the workforce full time. It is not intended to interfere with part-time jobs that young people may have outside of school hours,” said Josh Bueckert, senior media relations spokesperson with Employment and Social Development Canada.

“For instance, under the convention, children aged 13 to 15 are allowed to perform ‘light work,’ such as babysitting or delivering newspapers, that is not likely to be harmful to their health, development or attendance at school.”

From a federal employment standards perspective, the Canada Labour Code is already “generally well aligned” with Convention 138, said Bueckert.

“The Canada Labour Code currently specifies a minimum age of 17 for hazardous work, while the convention has a minimum age of 18 years old for hazardous work. However, there is flexibility enshrined in the convention that permits the employment of 16 and 17 year olds in hazardous work, subject to appropriate training and safety protections,” he said.

Although the federal government signed and ratified the convention, it does not have the authority to implement provisions in areas of provincial and territorial jurisdiction, such as employment standards, said Bueckert.

“The (federal) labour program has worked extensively with the provinces and territories to facilitate technical reviews and to ensure that they have all the information they need to ensure compliance with the convention. The federal government will continue to work closely with provinces and territories during the implementation phase of the convention,” he said.

Alberta was the first province to announce legislative changes to ensure its employment rules met Convention 138 requirements. The provincial legislature passed employment standards amendments affecting youth employment last year. The changes are expected to come into force on Sept. 1.

“Alberta’s workplace rules do not align with our international labour obligations, such as the International Labour Organization’s Convention 138 on youth employment,” said Labour Minister Christina Gray last year when tabling the amendments.

“We do think it’s important that Alberta follow the conventions that the ILO has recommended and that we make sure we are putting in laws that protect our young people,” she said.

The changes include raising the minimum working age from 12 years to 13 years, introducing new restrictions on the type of work that 13 to 15 year olds may do, and limiting the hours that they can work.

With the amendments, children under 13 will only be allowed to work in “artistic endeavours” and only if the director of employment standards has issued a permit authorizing it.

Children aged 13 to 15 years will only be permitted to work in artistic endeavours and do “light” work, as defined by the Ministry of Labour, unless their employer has obtained a permit for other kinds of work.

In June, the labour ministry published a list of “light work” for various sectors (for example: food services, offices, retail, sports, entertainment, farms) and asked for public feedback on it.

Under the new rules, 13 and 14 year olds will continue to be prohibited from working between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. or during school hours (excluding off-campus education programs). They will also still only be allowed to work up to two hours outside of regular school hours on school days and up to eight hours on non-school days.

Children aged 15 will be allowed to do jobs that are not hazardous. Employers will have to carry out hazard assessments to determine whether work is safe to do. Fifteen year olds will not be allowed to work between 12:01 a.m. and 6 a.m. or during school hours (excluding off-campus education programs).

Children who are 16 and 17 will continue to be allowed to work in any type of employment, with restrictions on hazardous jobs.

Current restrictions on work hours will continue to apply, with 16 and 17 year olds working in retail or hospitality only permitted to work between 9 p.m. and 12 a.m. with adult supervision and prohibited from working between 12:01 a.m. and 6 a.m.

In other sectors, overnight work will be allowed with parent/guardian consent and adult supervision.

In Manitoba, the provincial legislature passed amendments in early June to raise the age for working, but the government has not yet said when they will take effect.

“We are increasing the minimum age of employment from 12 to 13, bringing Manitoba in line with the International Labour Organization’s minimum age convention, C138,” said Blaine Pedersen, minister of growth, enterprise and trade.

Besides keeping current restrictions on work hours in place for young employees, the government would restrict them from more types of work, said Pedersen.

“We will also be developing new regulatory provisions in the coming months, setting out additional industries, occupations, and job tasks that young workers will be prohibited from participating in,” he said.

Manitoba’s Employment Standards Code currently prohibits employees under 18 from working in industries such as forestry, underground mining, or asbestos removal. Further restrictions apply to workers under 16 years, including prohibitions on working on construction sites or on drilling or servicing rigs, and in industrial or manufacturing processes, among other occupations.

The code limits weekly work hours for children under 16 to a maximum of 20 during a school week. It also prohibits employees under 16 from working between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. and prohibits employees between 16 and 18 from working alone during that time.

With the amendments, Manitoba is also eliminating the need for employers to apply for a permit to hire workers between the ages of 12 and 16.

“Instead, we are requiring all workers under 16 to have taken and passed (a) work readiness course before they are eligible for employment,” said Pedersen.

“The course will ensure that all our young workers have basic knowledge of safe work principles and their rights and responsibilities in the workplace.”

Saskatchewan has had a similar requirement for 14 and 15 year olds for a number of years.

While raising the minimum age from 12 to 13 will align it with Convention 138, the Manitoba Federation of Labour (MFL) said the government should have followed the advice of its Labour Management Review Committee.

“Business and labour had recommended setting the safe minimum working age for children at 14 years old, as it is both in Ontario and Saskatchewan,” said Kevin Rebeck, president of the MFL.

Changes to youth employment rules may also be on the agenda in British Columbia.

“Although B.C.’s legislative and regulatory framework is compliant with both the spirit and the principles laid out in C138, the government recognizes that there may be some areas where changes... could improve full technical compliance,” said Joanne McGachie, acting manager in the Labour Communications Office.

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