Hiring young workers is a great way to bring some youth and energy into your small business. In Canada, many young people can start working as early as 14 years of age, and it is fairly common for 16-year-olds to have part-time jobs. As an employer, you need to be aware of several laws and employment standards that protect the rights of minor employees.
The oversight of workplace laws is, in general, a provincial responsibility in Canada. Therefore, the rules that apply to your particular business vary depending on the province where you are located. If you hire minors in two different provinces, you need to know two different sets of rules.
All laws dealing with the employment of minors have the overarching goal of protecting children from abusive employers and dangerous conditions. Until they reach a certain age, minors must be employed in such a way as to promote their education before their employment. For example, the hours when they can work can be limited to ensure that they are home early enough to get a good night’s sleep on weekdays.
As a general rule, children can work as early as age 14, but there are many restrictions in those cases. In most provinces, there are fewer restrictions once children have completed the school year when they turn 16.
Many laws contain provisions indicating that a person in authority must give their consent before the minor can be employed. In Ontario, for example, the school guidance counselor may need to approve the job. In Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec, parental consent is required, while other provinces require consultation with a government official, such as a labour standards officer.
Some jobs are typically better suited for minors and may be exempt from certain aspects of provincial legislation. This is often the case for newspaper delivery or babysitting services. On the other end of the spectrum, some industries such as construction, mining, logging, and forestry are often considered altogether unsuitable for minors.
Federal Labour Standards
The federal government has also passed the Canada Labour Standards Regulations with standards that set out the rules for hiring minors for federally regulated businesses, which represents approximately 6% of all Canadian workers.
If your business is in one of the following industries, you need to apply the federal rules:
- Marine shipping, ferry and port services
- Air transportation, including airports, aerodromes, and airlines
- Railway and road transportation that involves crossing provincial or international borders
- Canals, pipelines, tunnels, and bridges (crossing provincial borders)
- Telephone, telegraph, and cable systems
- Radio and TV broadcasting
- Grain elevators, feed mills, and seed mills
- Uranium mining and processing
- Businesses dealing with the protection of fisheries as a natural resource
- Many First Nation activities
- Most federal crown corporations
- Private businesses necessary to the operation of a federal act
In general, the federal standards set rules to protect workers under the age of 17 in much the same way as the various provincial legislation does.