Until recently, there have been few limits on conditions for children and youth, allowing them to perform jobs in hazardous situations or environments, including operation of heavy machinery like industrial saws. As a result, young workers are injured on the job every year, with WorkSafeBC data reporting over $1.1 million paid in job-related disability claims for workers 14 or younger between 2007 and 2017.
To better protect children and youth, the B.C. government passed amendments to the Employment Standards Act in May 2019 that raise the minimum working age from 12 to 16, with 14 and 15-year-olds allowed to perform light work. This engagement looked for input to define light work so young people can gain valuable work experience and earn some money while ensuring the safety of their health and development. Regulations will be developed based on this engagement process, which is required before the amendments come into effect.
In other jurisdictions, the definition of light work for young people includes examples like: a clerk or messenger in an office or retail store; delivery person for small goods and merchandise; delivering flyers, and; certain duties in the restaurant industry including host, cashier, dishwasher, busser, server and others.
Certain jobs are already exempt from age restrictions in B.C., including: babysitters, newspaper carriers, performers in recorded and live entertainment, and students in work-study programs. These jobs will not be impacted by the new age requirements or rules around light work.
In other jurisdictions, the rules for working young people vary. Our goal for the updated Employment Standards Act is to bring B.C. into alignment with labour rules and regulations already in force across other jurisdictions, and with United Nations regulations regarding child employment.