Can you employ students over the summer break?

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Can you employ students over the summer break?

Are there any restrictions on employing school-aged workers during the Christmas holiday period? Paul Munro explains.

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Are there any restrictions on employing school-aged workers during the Christmas holiday period?

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Q Some local high school students have approached our company seeking employment over the school holidays. We're happy to provide them with work but they are only 16 or 17 years of age.

We are concerned there may be some legislative restrictions on employing young persons. They will be working in one of our retail outlets so the work is particularly arduous.

Are there laws which prevent a company hiring school-aged workers? And are they covered by the relevant award?

A An employer can employ a young person subject to the relevant state or territory child employment law and the relevant state or territory education law. Generally, an employer is permitted to employ a school-aged person outside the hours the person is required to attend school, subject to the restrictions under the relevant state or territory child employment law.

Any person below the minimum school leaving age (as determined by the relevant state or territory education law) is precluded from accepting employment which would prevent their attendance at school or participation in school activities, unless that person is participating in a school-based apprenticeship or school-based traineeship, or an accredited work-experience program arranged through the participating educational institution.

Modern awards  and age restrictions

Most modern awards do not prescribe a minimum age regarding the employment of young persons, except in respect of certain classes of work regarded as dangerous or unduly arduous, or the performance of work after certain hours, for example, late night work.

These restrictions may be regulated by the relevant state or territory child employment legislation or workplace health and safety legislation.

Modern awards which cover occupations that are semi-skilled or unskilled may not prescribe junior wage rates. Examples include: Security Services Industry Award 2010, Cleaning Services Award 2010, Building and Construction General On-Site Award 2010, Quarrying Award 2010, Nurses Award 2010, and Electrical, Electronic and Communications Contracting Award 2010.

This means an employer is required to pay the minimum adult rate for the classification of work performed by the junior employee, regardless of their age. Where a modern award prescribes a scale of wage rates commencing from (say) 16 years of age, an employee who is younger than 16 must be paid the 16-year-old minimum award rate of pay.

Reference should be made to the applicable modern award or enterprise agreement to determine whether any restrictions apply to the employment of young persons.

Junior wage rates

A modern award which covers occupations that are a trade, semi-skilled or unskilled in nature may not prescribe junior rates of pay. In this case, a person is paid the appropriate adult rate of pay regardless of their age.

Modern awards that do not provide junior rates include: Building and Construction General On-Site Award 2010; Cleaning Services Award 2010; Market and Social Research Award 2010; and Quarrying Industry Award 2010.

Most modern awards do prescribe junior rates, such as clerical, retail and storage industries.

Reference should be made to the applicable modern award to determine the appropriate rate of pay for a junior employee.

Parental/guardian permission

Some state legislation requires an employer to obtain written permission from a young person’s parent or guardian before being employed, although this usually applies to those under 16 years of age. It would be prudent however for an employer to obtain permission from a parent or guardian of a young employee regardless of any state or territory legislatiive requirement.

The bottom line: Generally, state and territory legislation does not restrict the employment of young persons during school holidays, although statutory restrictions usually apply only to children under 16 years of age.

Reference should be made to the applicable modern award and National Employment Standards for relevant employment conditions regarding minimum wages and entitlements.
 

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