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Amendments to the BC Employment Standards Act aimed at protecting under-aged Employees

British Columbia was the only jurisdiction in Canada to allow for children to enter the workforce at age 12, but new amendments to the Employment Standards Act that come into force on October 15, 2021 will change that and bring British Columbia in line with Canadian and International standards for employing children.  Employers who currently have under-aged employees have until October 15th to make necessary adjustments to their workforce or the work performed by under-aged workers.

Recognizing that work is an important aspect of a child’s development into adulthood, the BC Ministry of Labour wanted to ensure the safety of working children and create prohibitions on certain types of work that could have normally been available to children, particularly dangerous work tasks in construction or heavy industry.  According to the Ministry over $1.1 million paid in job-related WorkSafeBC claims for workers 14 years or younger between 2007 and 2016.

There must also be a balance between the need for children to go to school and the availability of work and number of work hours that are appropriate.  In BC, children are required to attend school until age 16, and the Employment Standards Act and School Act place importance on parents and guardians to consent to their child’s employment and its terms provided that they are not off-side the applicable legislation.  The main purpose of the legislation is to ensure that a child’s education, health and well-being are of the primary importance over work.

But the new changes don’t mean that under-aged employees cannot work, but now the requirement only allow children of children aged 12 to 14 to only work or continue to work in a business or farm owned by an immediate family member, provided the work is safe and permitted under the Employment Standards Act.

Under-aged workers of ages 14-16 can still also work in jobs with light work tasks, including work at a recreation club, light farm and yard work, administrative work, retail work, food service work, delivering newspapers, babysitting, etc. and skilled and technical work in computers or the arts.  Standards are expected to be announced later this year for permissible work for 16–18 year-old workers once a definition of “hazardous work” is finalized.

The amendments also do not prevent children from working in more traditional under-aged jobs such as babysitting, delivering newspapers (part-time) or those in educational work study programs.  Additionally, the new rules do not apply to child actors or performers in recorded (film or tv) or live entertainment (stage, radio, etc.).

More information on the amendments to the Employment Standards Act can be found at the BC government website at: 

Scott Chambers is an employment and Human Resources Lawyer in Kelowna BC at Doak Shirreff Lawyers LLP.  Scott can be reached at [email protected] or 250-979-2527.


This work was originally published by The Lawyer’s Daily a division of LexisNexis Canada.