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Child labour off the table in B.C.

14- and 15-year-olds can legally hold 'appropriate' jobs defined as 'light work' with changes to employment standards legislation
Young cashier
Cashier is one of the jobs defined as "appropriate" for 14- and 15-year-olds with changes to B.C.'s employment standards.

Child labour is officially off the table in British Columbia – but don't worry, your child can still babysit or have a paper route.

As of today (Friday, Oct. 15), changes to employment standards raise the general working age in B.C. from 12 to 16 and define the types of jobs that are  appropriate for those under 16.

A Ministry of Labour press release notes  that young people aged 14 and 15 are able to do many "appropriate" jobs defined as "light work," with permission from a parent or guardian. In some cases, children aged 14 and 15 may be permitted to do work outside the definition of light work with a permit from the Ministry of Labour's Employment Standards Branch.

The new rules do not prevent children from babysitting or delivering newspapers part-time, or students from working in a work-study or work experience class, which are among the jobs excluded from the new rules.

Children aged 12 and older can continue to be employed in a business or on a farm owned by an immediate family member, as long as the work meets the safety criteria set out in the regulation.

YES: Here's the jobs youth can do

Occupations that are now prescribed as light work appropriate for youth 14 and 15 include:

  • cashier
  • computer programmer
  • golf caddy
  • lifeguard or lifeguard assistant
  • messenger or courier
  • peer counsellor
  • performing artist
  • recreation or community program attendant
  • referee or umpire
  • salesperson, other than door-to-door
  • server of food or drink, other than alcohol
  • sports or recreational coach or instructor
  • summer or day camp leader
  • tutor or instructor
  • visual artist or graphic designer
  • writer, editor or similar

NO:  Here's what youth can't do

Occupations or situations that are now generally considered as unsafe for youth under 16 include:

  • repairing, maintaining or operating heavy machinery
  • places where a minor is not permitted to enter
  • sites of construction, heavy manufacturing, heavy industrial work
  • sites designed to retain an oxygen-deficient or toxic atmosphere
  • walk-in freezers or coolers, other than to place or retrieve an item
  • handling substances that minors cannot legally purchase, use or distribute
  • lifting, carrying or moving heavy items or animals
  • using, handling or applying hazardous substances like pesticides

These changes to the Employment Standards Act were initiated through legislation in the spring of 2019. Consultations were held with more than 1,700 youth, parents and employers from multiple sectors before prior to finalizing the changes this year.

The ministry release says these new rules bring British Columbia in line with international standards for children's employment. Prior to these changes, B.C. was the only province in Canada whose general minimum working age was as young as 12.