B.C. moves to protect young workers by raising minimum employment age to 16

·2 min read
Barista working at a JJ Bean coffee shop. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC - image credit)
Barista working at a JJ Bean coffee shop. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC - image credit)

The B.C. government has enacted changes to the B.C. Employment Standards Act, raising the general working age of youth in the province from 12 to 16, bringing the province in line with international child labour standards and other provinces in Canada.

The changes, effective Friday, will provide better protections for youth, while also allowing regulators to define the types of employment and jobs appropriate for those under the age of 16, the province said in a statement.

The amendments to the Employment Standards Act were first introduced in the legislature in 2019, following consultations with over 1,700 youth, parents and employers from multiple sectors, the government said.

The move also followed revelations that WorkSafeBC had paid a total of $5.2 million in work injury claims to children 15 years and under from 2007 to 2017.

Under the amended legislation, youth aged 14 and 15 are still able to do many age appropriate jobs the government described as "light work," but only with permission from a parent or guardian.

In some cases, children aged 14 and 15 may also be allowed to do work outside that definition, but only with a permit from the Ministry of Labour's Employment Standards Branch, it said.

Light work for youth aged 14 and 15

The government's website lays out the new age groups and which types of jobs are allowable in each of those. Specifically for youth aged 14 and 15, it defines the jobs that fall under the umbrella of light work as follows:

  • 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.

The province says the new rules do not prevent children from babysitting, delivering newspapers part time, or working at a business or on a farm which is owned by an immediate family member, as long as the work meets safety criteria.

It also does not prevent school-aged children from working in a work-study or work experience class.

Occupations or situations the province now generally considers 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.

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