Navigating the complexity of employing juniors

Many young people get their first jobs working in retail. Combining part-time work with school can be a rewarding and formative experience for high school children, but as an employer there are rules and regulations you need to be aware of when employing people between the ages of 15 and 18.

Australia has no national minimum working age. The rules vary between states and territories, with some jurisdictions having a minimum age and others not. However, all states and territories have their own restrictions around the employment of juniors to ensure that their wellbeing is protected and that work does not adversely affect their education. In general, there are more restrictions for employees under 15 and fewer restrictions for those aged between 15-17 years of age, but this can vary.

There are a few sets of regulations to consider when employing people under 18, including:
• Regulations for employing children, such as minimum working age, restrictions on working hours, shifts, and types of work
• Regulations about compulsory schooling and procedures for leaving school early
• Regulations about who can sell alcohol.

The ARA has been advocating for a national approach to the minimum working age, so there’s one set of rules across the country. In the interim, we have put together a comprehensive resource with what you need to know about employing people under 18 in your state or territory.

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

The ACT has no minimum working age, but there is a set of Standards employers must follow for employees under 15 and employees aged 15-17. For employees under 15, these are:

• May only be employed in “light work” (this can include working as a cashier)
• Must not work during school hours
• Must not work more than 10 hours per week
• Must not work more than 4 hours a day if aged 4-11
• Must not work more than 6 hours a day if aged 12-14
• Must not be employed for more than 1 shift per day
• Written parental consent is required and this must be kept on file
• Informed consent from the employee is also required but does not have to be in writing
• Employees under 12 need to be supervised by a parent or guardian, or by a responsible adult approved by a parent or guardian
• Employees 12-14 need to be supervised by a responsible adult.

For employees aged 15-17, these are:
• Must not work during school hours if required to be at school
• Employment must not adversely affect education.

If you employ someone under 15, you can apply to Child and Youth Protection services for permission to increase their hours beyond the limit set in the Standards. In this case you will need written consent from the young employee.

Employees under 18 can sell alcohol provided they are not in an adults-only area.

Young people can’t work full time until they finish year 10 or turn 17. 15 and 16-year-olds who have finished year 10 and are not in school or another form of education and training need to work at least 25 hours per week. They also need to have obtained an approval statement from the Department of Education and Training to leave school. As part of this process they will need to provide details of their employment, including employer contact details.

More information: https://www.communityservices.act.gov.au/youth/young_workers

New South Wales (NSW)

NSW has no minimum working age but restrictions apply for employees under 15. These include:

• Must not work during school hours (with very limited exceptions)
• Must not work more than one shift per day
• Must not work more than four hours on school days
• Must not work more than five consecutive days
• Must not work after 9pm if they have to go to school the next day
• Must have at least 12 hours between shifts
• Must be given a one-hour rest break every four hours
• Combined school and work hours must not exceed 50 hours per seven-day week.

Employees under 18 must not sell alcohol without permission from the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.

Young people can’t work full time until they finish year 10 or turn 17. 15 and 16-year-olds who have finished year 10 and are not in school or another form of education or training need to work at least 25 hours per week.

Northern Territory (NT)

The NT has no minimum employment age but there are restrictions for employees under 15. These are:
• Must not work during school hours
• Must not work before 6am or after 10pm.

Employees under 18 must not sell alcohol without the permission of the Director Liquor Licensing.

Young people can’t work full time until they finish year 10 or turn 17. Those who finish year 10 before the age of 15 can’t work full time until they turn 15. 15 and 16-year-olds who have finished year 10 and are not in school or another form of education or training need to work at least 25 hours per week. They will need to complete and submit an application form to the Department of Education and provide details of their employment.

Queensland (QLD)

The minimum employment age in QLD is 13, except for newspaper/ advertising delivery, for which it is 11. Restrictions apply to school-aged employees (defined as under 16 and required to attend school). Under these restrictions, school-aged employees:

• Must not work during school hours
• Must not work before 6am or after 10pm
• Must not work more than 4 hours on a school day
• Must not work more than 8 hours on a non-school day
• Must not work more than 12 hours per week during the school term
• Must not work more than 38 hours per week during the school holidays
• Must not work more than 1 shift a day
• Must be given a 1-hour break every 4 hours
• Must be given at least a 12-hour break between shifts
• If involved in the exchange of money, must be appropriately supervised and have an adult near to and in regular contact with them.

These restrictions don’t apply to employees under 16 who have finished compulsory schooling.

Restrictions on age, hours, shifts and breaks do not apply to children and young people working in a family business owned by a close relative.

Employees under 18 are permitted to sell alcohol.

Young people can’t work full time until they finish year 10 or turn 16. If a 16-year-old (or younger employee who has finished year 10) is not in school or another form of education or training, they must work at least 25 hours per week until:
• They turn 17
• 2 years have passed since finishing year 10.

More information: https://www.business.qld.gov.au/running-business/employing/hiring-recruitment/employing-children/restrictions

South Australia (SA)

SA has no minimum employment age, but restrictions apply to children of compulsory education age (6-16). These are:
• Must not work during school hours or during the hours they are required to attend an approved learning program (e.g. a 16-year-old attending TAFE)
• Must not work at any time that is likely to render them unfit to attend school or obtain the proper benefit from attendance (I.e late at night or early in the morning).

Employees under 18 must not sell alcohol, with extremely limited exceptions.

Employees aged 16 and 17 can sell alcohol if they are the child of the person with the liquor licence and live on the premise.

Young people generally can’t work full time until they turn 17, but 15 and 16-year-olds can apply for an exemption to leave school for full-time employment. In this case, 15-year-olds must work at least 30 hours per week and 16-year-olds must work at least 25 hours per week. You will need to provide a letter to their school guaranteeing the job and number of hours to be worked by the employee.

More information: Minimum working age | SafeWork SA

Tasmania

Tasmania has no minimum employment age, but restrictions apply when employing children under 18. These include:
• Must not work during school hours
• Employees under 11 must not sell products in a public place
• Employees under 14 must not sell products in a public place after 9pm or before 5am.
• Employees under 16 must not sell alcohol. 16 and 17-year-olds who sell alcohol must be under the direct supervision of an adult.

Young people can’t work full time until they finish year 12, obtain a Certificate III, or turn 18. However, young people who have finished year 10 can apply for an exemption to leave school for full time work (at least 35 hours per week). You will need to provide a signed letter guaranteeing the employment.

More information:

https://www.decyp.tas.gov.au/parents-carers/parent-fact-sheets/work-tasmanian-government-schools-senior-secondary-age-students

Victoria

The minimum age of employment in Victoria is 13, with exceptions for family businesses and the entertainment industry. The minimum age of employment is 11 for the delivery of newspapers & advertising material. Restrictions apply to employees under 15, including:

• The employer must obtain a permit for each employee under 15
• Employees must only do “light work” (includes working as a cashier)
• Employees must not work during school hours
• During the school term, employees must not work more than 3 hours per day and 12 hours per week (including rest breaks)
• Outside of the school term, employees must not work more than 6 hours per day or 30 hours per week
• Employees must be given a 30-minute rest break every 3 hours
• Employees must be given at least a 12-hour break between shifts
• Children must be supervised by someone who holds a valid working with children check
• The employer must comply with Child Safe Standards
• The employer must keep records of the child’s work hours.

It is possible to make an application to vary hours and rest breaks.

If employed in a family business operated by their parent or guardian these restrictions don’t apply. However, employees under 15 in a family business:
• Must be supervised by their parent or guardian
• Must not work during school hours.

Employees under 18 must not sell alcohol.

A young person can’t be employed full-time until they have finished year 10 or turned 17. 15 and 16-year-olds who have finished year 10 and are not in school or another form of education or training need to work at least 25 hours per week. They will also need to go through an exemption process to leave school; this involves providing evidence of employment, e.g. a formal letter.

Child employment laws are set to change in Victoria from 1 July 2023. See ‘more information’ column.

More information:

https://business.vic.gov.au/business-information/staff-and-hr/employing-children/child-employment-laws-and-requirements

https://www.vic.gov.au/changes-child-employment-act

Western Australia

The minimum age of employment in WA varies by type of work. For frontline retail roles, it’s 13.

School-aged employees must not work during school hours.
Additional restrictions apply to 13 and 14-year-olds, including:
• Must have written permission from a parent or guardian
• Must not work before 6am or after 10pm.

Employees under 18 must not sell alcohol.

Young people generally can’t work full time until they finish year 12, turn 18, or get to the end of the year that they turn 17 and a half.

Students in year 11 and year 12 can obtain permission from the Minister for Education and Training to leave school for full-time employment. They will need to provide details about their employment. It is also possible for students to obtain an exemption from full-time schooling from year 10 or the year they turn 15 and a half through a different application process.

More information:

https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/labour-relations/employment-children-laws-wa-shop-restaurant-fast-food-or-takeaway-food-business

https://www.education.wa.edu.au/alternatives-to-full-time-schooling#Seeking_approval_for_alternatives

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