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Frequently Asked Questions

Q Do I need a permit if I hire the teenager down the street to babysit my child or mow my lawn?
A No. Arrangements such as these are “casual” employment relationships. Permits are required if hiring children in formal employment relationships with scheduled hours of work and formal lines of authority.
Q When did we introduce minimum age laws in British Columbia?
A The first law limiting the employment of children, under 16 in this case, was passed in 1900. These underage children could work no more than 11 hours per day.

In 1927 a new law stated that children under the age of 15 could be employed in any factory for over 6 hours per day only by permit from an inspector. That seems to be the first time that the age of 15 was recognized as the minimum age for employment in British Columbia. Minimum age laws were applied on an industry by industry basis and gradually expanded to cover larger segments of the economy. By 1948, the minimum age of 15 applied to all establishments using machinery, shops and most other workplaces. The changes to B.C. child labour law made by the Liberals this fall change rules dating back to 1948 at least. (Research by Mark Thompson)
Q Why are children working in the TV and film industry exempt from the changes?
A California's labour standards have forced the B.C. government to exempt children working in the movie industry from the changes introduced in Bill 37. According to ministry staff, the film industry is the largest user of the permitting process applying for approximately 5,000 permits last year. The industry is not in favour of a deregulated environment. They believe U.S. production companies would come under intense pressure if labour standards in Canada are lower than in California.

To our surprise the provincial government changed and weakened the regulationsfor children working in the entertainment industry too.
Q Isn’t some work good for young adults?
A Yes. Moderate amounts of age-appropriate work helps young people develop valuable physical, social, and life skills. Indeed, some students find success in the workplace that alludes them in the academic setting. Stats Canada’s report, “Learning, Earning and Leaving” released in May 2003, concludes that students who work 20 hours or less are more likely to graduate than students who did not work at all, or students who worked more than that. The changes in Bill 37 however speaks of children 12 to 15 year olds working, an age group not contemplated by their study. In a review of the literature, How does working part-time influence secondary students’ achievement and impact on their overall well-being?, conducted by research staff at the BCTF, again with older students, study after study indicate that children who work outside of school experienced more stress, tend to participate less in extra curricular activities, had difficulty completing homework assignments, and often did not fully engage in school while there. Teachers anecdotally report students they know work long hours falling asleep in class or asking to sleep in the nurse’s office during the lesson.
Q Who will supervise the children when they are at work?
A No one will be required to supervise the children. The legislation is silent on the matter. However under pressure from the public, the Minister of Skills Development and Labour has promised some new regulations on hours of work, safety and supervision by mid-December 2003. This means, however, there is no guarantee that an adult will be looking out for the child. Read some grueling and tragic stories of young children injured or killed on the job. The photos of one hundred young adults aged 16 - 24 killed on the job are depicted on the Life Quilt. Thirteen of those faces are from British Columbia even with our current regulations and permitting process. What number of deaths and injury can we expect now that this legislation has passed, resulting in no employer regulations and no outside monitoring agency protecting the health and safety for children even younger than those on the quilt?
Q Aren’t parents the best ones to decide if their children are ready to work or not?
A Parents don’t always know that a workplace is safe or not. Before a permit is granted, trained staff at the Employment Standards Branch are required to inspect the workplace, interview the employer and identify potential dangers for the young worker. Approximately 25% of the permits applied for were refused. All were signed by a parent or guardian.
Q Must both parents approve? Can a child be put to work with the approval of only one parent?
A No both parents do not have to approve. “One letter is good enough. I’ve said it five times now, and I’ll say it again. If a parent signs a letter that says that their child can work at this place of business, then that is good enough. If the child is a foster child and where they are staying the person looking after them is a legal guardian, then that signature is good enough.” Minister of Skills Development and Labour, Graham Bruce in Hansard October 7, 2003.

(Jenny Kwan, MLA Vancouver-Mount Pleasant) Some parents will tell their children that they have a lifetime of work ahead of them and to focus on school instead. Some parents, perhaps parents under tremendous economic pressures or with language barriers, are not well-informed about the workplace. Finally, the sad exception is those parents or guardians who are irresponsible or even unscrupulous and might approve employment that to a reasonable, fair-minded third party would put their children in harm's way.

We would not have a Minister of Children and Family Development if all parents were equally equipped to care for and make decisions for their children. That is why having an objective third party, such as the employment standards branch, is a critical part of the check and balance in the system. The minister now says and this was news to just about everyone, perhaps even his staff and cabinet colleagues that he is considering addressing all these concerns by regulation. Well, that is certainly an improvement, and all the groups and individual British Columbians who have been working so hard fighting this government's total deregulation of child labour.
Q Minister of Skills Development and Labour Graham Bruce promises new regulations regarding safety, supervision, and hours of work. What would be in these new regulations?
A Again from Hansard Tuesday October 7, 2003, Minister of Skills Development and Labour, Graham Bruce said: “The School Act is the overriding act that applies. A child can not be working during school hours. A child does not work more than four hours on a school day or 20 hours in a week when school is in session. The child does not work more than 8 hours a day and 35 hours a week when school is not in session. The child is under the supervision of the an adult.”

On Thursday October 9, 2003, we sent a letter to the minister asking to be consulted on these new regulations. To date we have not received a reply.
Q When will the changes to BC Child labour law take effect?
A “Government plans to bring both regulations into effect December 14, 2003, once cabinet has had the opportunity to provide their input and once Bill 37 has received royal assent. Until that time, the director of employment standards must approve and provide a permit for children aged 12 through 14 to work.” (Minister of Skills Development and Labour, Graham Bruce in Hansard Monday October 6, 2003).

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