Police to check child labour: Vic laws

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Police to check child labour: Vic laws

New Victorian child employment laws, that make police checks of employers a priority, are about to be debated in the Victorian Upper House.

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New Victorian child employment laws, that make police checks of employers a priority, are about to be debated in the Victorian Upper House.
 
The proposed Child Employment Bill 2003 replaces the child employment provisions of the Victorian Community Services Act.
 
According to Victorian Industrial Relations Minister Rob Hulls, child employment provisions in current community services laws had not been amended for 30 years, so it was time to change the legislation to ensure it reflected the current nature of work carried out by children under the age of 15.
 
'In contrast to adults, children are physically, emotionally and mentally immature,' said Hulls. 'They have less life experience to draw upon and may find it hard to voice their concerns in an appropriate or effective way. This can mean that children are exposed to greater OHS dangers when they work.'
 
Vic WorkCover statistics show that one child under 15 is seriously injured in the workplace every two weeks.
 
The proposed laws don't ban children under the age of 15 from work. But they modify the child work permit system, including the need for police checks, and set new limits on what child workers can do.
 
As the ALP Party has the numbers in both houses, the Bill is expected to pass.
 
Employment
 
Under the proposed laws, the definition of child employment remains the same. Child employment occurs when a child takes part or assists in any business, trade or occupation carried on for profit. The child's participation can be paid or unpaid and the child may be engaged as an employee or a contractor.
 
The proposed laws retain the permit system. Children cannot be employed without a permit and parents or guardians must not allow their children to engage in work unless a permit has been procured.
 
However, permits don't apply to employing children in any family business, including a family farm.
 
Permits won't apply to work experience that is covered by the Victorian Education Act 1958, except where a child wants to do work experience in a declared high-risk industry. In this situation, the new laws make it mandatory for child permits.
 
Age limits
 
The proposed laws set age limits on certain types of work. Children must be no younger than 11 to deliver newspapers, pamphlets, advertising material, and chemist goods for a registered pharmacist.
 
All other employment not prohibited by the laws has a minimum age of 13. However, there are no minimum age limits for employing children in the family business or in entertainment.
 
Hours and type of work
 
Current provisions of the Community Services Act are retained that require that any child employment must not be conducted during school hours. Parents must not allow a child to work if it interferes with the child's attendance at school, but they are exempted from the general conditions relating to hours of work.
 
New provisions include the maximum hours children can be employed - three hours per day and 12 hours per week any time during the school term. Outside of the school term they can be employed for a maximum of six hours per day and 30 hours per week. The hours are inclusive of rest breaks.
 
Children must not work for more than three hours without a 30-minute rest break and must have at least 12 hours break between each shift.
 
In the case of street trading, children can start work no earlier than 6am or sunrise, whichever is later. They must finish work no later than 6pm or sunset, whichever is earlier.
 
In other cases, no earlier than 6am and no later than 9pm in other cases. Time limits don't apply to work in a family business.
 
Children can only preform light work whether it be for employers or for a family business. Light work is anything that won't harm a child's health or safety, moral, material welfare or development. Examples of light work include errands, clerical work, gardening, street trading, farming chores and sales assistant.
 
Children under the age of 15 will be banned from door-to-door selling, and working on deep-sea fishing boats and commercial and residential construction sites before the building sites are at lock-up stage. The new laws also contain provisions to add to this list of banned employment if necessary.
 
These new laws complement existing laws that ban children working in the mining industry, prostitution or on licensed premises.
 
Work permits and police checks
 
A parent or a guardian is responsible for applying for a child work permit. There are no costs involved. The application will be investigated, including police checks of the employer and all employees nominated as supervisors of the child, and investigations to determine the nature of the work to be carried out.
 
Police checks remain valid for 12 months, as long as the person involved signs a statuary declaration attesting that they have not been charged with an offence in those 12 months.
 
Work permits will only be granted for a maximum of 12 months at a time.
 
Only the employer and the person named in the permit can supervise the child. However, persons not named in the permit but have undergone police checks can be granted supervision of the child.
 
Entertainment industry
 
The proposed laws have special provisions for the entertainment industry. Although the permit system and light work provisions will apply, other provisions relating to hours of work and rest breaks won't.
 
To monitor the entertainment industry appropriately the proposed laws have provisions for the development of a mandatory code of practice in the entertainment industry relating to the employment of children.
 
Industry representatives, unions and government will work together to put the code together. It will come into force 12 months from the date the laws are enacted.
 
Non-work
 
The new laws highlight non-work activities that don't constitute employment. But children are only allowed to participate in these following non-work tasks, if the activities constitute light work.
  • church services or religious programs;
  • occasional projects or entertainment the net proceeds of which are for the benefit of a church or school;
  • any activity for a non-profit organisation; and
  • participating in any sporting activity, including coaching and umpiring or refereeing.
Babysitting will also be considered non-work. But only if it's not carried out as part of a baby sitting business.
 
Child employment officers and penalties
 
The laws have provisions for child employment officers.
 
The primary function of the officers will be to educate employers and families about child employment. But they will also have powers to monitor compliance with the laws.
 
The officers will have the right of entry to inspect workplaces and the right to require the production of documents.
 
Prosecutions for breaches of the child employment legislation will be heard in the industrial division of the Magistrates Court.
 
The maximum penalty for breaching the proposed laws is $6,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a corporation.
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