Province amends rules for general working age

The age rises to 16 from 12, but there remain a plethora of jobs that can be done by teens ages 14 and 15.

Changes to employment standards will raise the general working age in British Columbia to 16 from 12 and redefine the types of jobs appropriate for those under 16 years of age.

The provincial government said the new rules — which will come into effect on Oct. 15 — will bring British Columbia in line with international standards for children's employment.

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The changes to the Employment Standards Act were initiated through legislation in the spring of 2019. Consultations were held with more than 1,700 youth, parents and employers from multiple sectors prior to finalizing the changes this year.

Teens ages 14 and 15 will still be able to do many jobs, defined as "light work," with permission from a parent or guardian. In some cases, children ages 14 and 15 may be permitted to do work outside the definition of light work with a permit from the Ministry of Labour's Employment Standards Branch.

Examples of light work appropriate for 14 and 15 year olds include:

• recreation and sports club work, such as lifeguard, coach, golf caddy, camp counsellor, referee and umpire;

• light farm and yard work, such as gardening, harvesting by hand, clearing leaves and snow, and grass cutting;

• administrative and secretarial work;

• retail work, such as stocking shelves, packaging orders, laying out displays, sales and cashier;

• food service work, such as busing tables, preparing food, dishwashing and serving food and non-alcoholic drinks;

• skilled and technical work, such as computer programmer, visual artists, graphic designer, writer and editor.

The new rules do not prevent children from babysitting or delivering newspapers part-time, nor do they prohibit students from taking part in a work study or work experience class.

Current rules will continue to apply to young performers in recorded and live entertainment.

Children ages 12 and older can continue to be employed in a business or on a farm owned by an immediate family member, as long as the work meets the safety criteria set out in the regulation.

Prior to these changes, B.C. was the only province in Canada that allowed the employment of children as young as 12.

In some cases, according to the provincial government, that has involved hazardous situations or environments, such as construction sites or heavy-industry settings. As a result, WorkSafeBC data shows more than $1.1 million paid in job-related disability claims for workers ages 14 or younger between 2007 and 2016.

The government said work is also underway to define "hazardous work" for those ages 16 to 18, with regulatory changes expected later this year to bring the legislation into force.

Light work occupations appropriate for youth ages 14 and 15 include:

• cashier

• golf caddy

• messenger or courier

• performing artist

• referee or umpire

• server of food or drink, other than alcohol

• summer or day camp leader

• visual artist or graphic designer

• computer programmer

• lifeguard or lifeguard assistant

• peer counsellor

• recreation or community program attendant

• salesperson, other than door-to-door

• sports or recreational coach or instructor

• tutor or instructor

• writer, editor or similar

Occupations or situations that are now generally treated as unsafe for youth under 16 include:

• repairing, maintaining or operating heavy machinery;

• places where a minor is not permitted to enter;

• construction sites, heavy manufacturing and 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; and

• using, handling or applying hazardous substances, such as pesticides.

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