The engagement of juniors as employees is currently regulated by the intersection of the Fair Work Act and State based child employment laws.  The federal government has ratified the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 138 and confirmed that it will be setting a minimum age for child employment at a federal level that will override the prevailing State systems and have a direct implication on the fuel transport, wholesale, retail and admin industry.

“The State child employment laws differ in the requirements that place on the employment of minors.  In Queensland and Victoria a minor can be employed, with conditions, from the age of 13 years.  In Western Australia minors who have reached 15 years can be employed, while the remaining States do not set an explicit minimum age for employment”, explains ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.

“The conditions that apply to that employment change from State to State.  For example in Queensland there is a requirement for a guardian to countersign employment documents as well as; a maximum of 4h work on a school day (8h work on a non school day), maximum of 12h work in a school week (38h work in a non school week) and no work between 22:00 and 06:00”, adds Elisha.

“The conditions that apply to the work of minors is further expanded by the actual Award conditions and other legislative elements, such as the fuel retail Award which stipulates that employees under the age of 18 may not work unsupervised between 19:00-21:00 and may not work at all between 21:00 and 06:30”, continues Elisha.

“Depending on the work that is being done by a minor there are additional requirements such as supervisors having a Working With Children Certificate, though it is noted these do not apply to fuel retail, unless the employee is under 15 years old in Victoria.  In a fuel retail setting there are restrictions on the handling or sale of restricted products, such as tobacco which vary from State to State”, Elisha noted.

O’Connor and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke said in a joint statement today that as part of its ratification of the ILO’s Convention 138, Australia will declare a minimum working age of 15 years, while noting the instrument allows younger children to perform light work in certain circumstances.

“This includes work that Australia has traditionally considered appropriate, such as newspaper deliveries, work in a family business and volunteer work,” they say, confirming that the ratification of this convention “proceeds based on Australia’s existing law and practice”.

While Australia already has “robust standards on safe and appropriate employment for children”, Burke and O’Connor say ratifying this convention demonstrates its commitment to strong international labour standards.

“The Government is committed to protecting the rights of children, including through providing the best start in life through a quality education and ensuring everyone has a safe and appropriate workplace,” they say.

ACTU President Michele O’Neil, in speaking about the ratification of ILO Convention 138 said,  “We also welcome the Albanese Government’s ratification of the ILO Minimum Age Convention, which is long overdue. Recent child labour law breaches by Muffin Break, Red Rooster, Cold Rock show the importance of strong standards that protect children from exploitation.

The ratification of the ILO convention by the Australian government will result in changes to the State laws and thus the operation of many businesses.

Practical Implications

“The ratification announcement at the ILO is the first step in putting into place a legal framework nationwide that will set the minimum age for most employment to 15 years (16 years for underground work), with some exemptions for family and light work”, explained Elisha.

“In the coming months legislative changes will be put forward and the specific details and exemptions will be outlined.  Until then the current framework for the employment of minors will continue.

“Members are advised to review their staffing and junior management systems now to ensure they are ready to adopt at least the known age change in the coming months”, concluded Elisha.

ACAPMA will be updating the ACAPMA Employing Juniors Guide to reflect the government commitment to a minimum age of 15 years, and will further update the Guide once the legislative detail is clarified.

Here to Help

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation reaching out to ACAPMA Employment Professionals via  its free for members.

Click here to apply for ACAPMA membership.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM &IR)