Seasonal Worker Series (Part 2): Young Employees

By Geoff Mason.

Last month, we launched my 5-part blog series on summer employment with a focus on the pros and cons of using fixed term contracts for seasonal workers. In today’s post (Part 2), I turn to the topic of young employees (defined as age 14 and under) and offer some employment law reminders to employers hiring from this demographic for the season.

Summer Jobs and Students: A Natural Fit

Many of us took advantage of our freedom from school during the summer months to find employment. I secured my first job when I was in high school, as a dishwasher for the summer.

June brings the end of school and a proliferation of young workers available for the summer. It also brings an increased need for labour in a vast array of businesses, including:

  • Summer camps
  • Landscaping
  • Movie theatres
  • Concessions
  • Pools and water parks
  • Restaurants and fast food chains
  • Grocery stores
  • Parks maintenance

As many youths seek temporary employment while school is out and many companies see a temporary boost in sales over the summer months, the relationship between young employees and summer-centric businesses is a natural one.

Hiring Young Workers: Employer Best Practices

No matter what age your workers are, sustainable workplace practices stay constant: employees young and old thrive (as does your business) in an environment based on transparency, fairness and respect. The same is true for employment law – younger workers are entitled to the same legal rights and protections as are their seniors.

However, to reflect the special vulnerability of youth, BC’s Employment Standards Act (the ESA) places certain additional responsibilities on employers with young employees on the payroll.

Here’s a quick primer to get you ready for summer hiring:

  1. Parental permission. If you want to employ someone aged 12 to 14, you must receive written permission from the child’s parent or guardian. Because a parent/guardian has a responsibility to ensure that a job is in their child’s best interests, the written permission requirement allows them to assess the where, when and what of the child’s employment.
  2. Hours of work. Once you have properly hired a young employee, you must follow certain rules regarding their hours of work. For example, an employer must ensure that a child aged 12 to 14 does not work at a time when they are scheduled to attend school. The Employment Standards Regulation also sets out specific limits on the number of hours a child between the ages of 12 and 14 may work in a day and during the week (see section 45.3).
  3. Supervision. All employees aged 12 to 14 must be under the direct and immediate supervision of someone who is 19 years or older at all times.
  4. Workers under 12. If you wish to hire a child who is under the age of 12, you must first obtain a child employment permit from the Director of Employment Standards. If the permit is granted, the Director may set various requirements for the employment relationship, including the hours of work and job duties. Of the above three rules, the only one that also applies to this youngest demographic is the parental permission requirement.

While these additional rules may seem daunting, the benefits to both parties of hiring younger employees can often outweigh them. Hiring young people not only makes great business sense but also helps promote sustainable employment relationships. Consider:

  • Early work experience helps young people develop important life and social skills that will serve them and future employers well.
  • Many students return to a former employer on a seasonal basis, which results in consistency for employers and clients as well as strong employment relationships.
  • For summer-focused businesses, the end of the season slow-down creates a natural ending for the worker’s employment and is timed perfectly with the start of the new school year – it’s a win-win for both parties.
  • Hiring younger workers for summer employment also benefits communities at large, as it is an important first step in creating a healthy future workforce.

While I didn’t realize it at the time, looking back, I now recognize how valuable my dishwashing job was to my career. To this day, I have great respect and appreciation for my employer for giving me my first job.

For Part 3 in this summer employment series, Special Rules for Special Industries, click here.

Have questions about hiring seasonal employees? Contact us!

NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on the Kent Employment Law website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action, based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. One of our lawyers would be pleased to discuss any specific legal concerns you may have.