At a time of acute labour shortage, employers are using a number of strategies to fill positions. These include incentives for retirees to return to work. At the same time, legislators have turned their attention to the other end of the spectrum: child labour. On June 1, the first provisions of the Act respecting the regulation of work by children (the “Act”) came into force. Among other things, the Act introduces the principle whereby the employment of children under the age of 14 is prohibited.
Legislative efforts to regulate child labour are picking up steam, as new provisions of the Act come into force today. Employers are now generally required to limit the number of hours worked by a child who is subject to compulsory school attendance.
The provisions of the Act apply only to employers subject to the Act respecting labour standards. In other words, they would not apply, for example, to federal employers.
Who are the employees concerned?
The employees concerned are those subject to compulsory school attendance. In Quebec, as a rule, all children must attend school from the start of the school year in which they turn 6 years of age. This obligation continues until the last day of the school year in which the child turns 16.
What new parameters must be respected?
Children targeted by the Act may not work more than 17 hours a week. Moreover, no more than 10 of these hours may be worked from Monday to Friday.
Are there exceptions to these new obligations?
There are exceptions to the general obligation to attend school. Examples include children who have been expelled from school or those attending a vocational training centre in the school network.
Furthermore, the new parameters do not have to be respected during a period of more than seven consecutive days when no educational services are offered to the child.
Needless to say, the new parameters do not apply to students who work during the school year under a career orientation program supervised by their educational institution and approved in accordance with the Act respecting labour standards.
What happens in the event of non-compliance with the Act?
Failure to comply with the new provisions could result in substantial fines. The Act provides for a fine of between $600 and $6,000 for a first office. For a repeat offence, the fine can be as high as $12,000.
Simply put, employers will need to be proactive in identifying the implications of this new legislation within their organization. An analysis of each child’s situation is recommended, as there may be situations where special application of these new provisions is warranted.