Employment of Children and Youth in BC


Update – Advocacy Works!

On April 29th, 2019 BC’s Minister of Labour introduced Bill 8 in the legislature that will amend the Employment Standards Act to provide better protections for children and adolescents who are working.

This Bill modernizes BC’s employment laws and brings us into compliance with international standards, specifically the International Labour Organization’s Convention 138 on the minimum age of employment – an agreement the Government of Canada ratified in 2016.

Once enacted, Bill 8 will:

  • raise the age for formal employment, (this is the age that does not require government oversight), from 12 to 16;
  • prohibit hazardous work for those under 16;
  • compel government to develop a list of acceptable tasks and conditions (e.g. hours of employment, time of day) for the employment of children aged 14 and 15; and
  • allow the Director of the Employment Standards Branch to consider applications for permits to hire those under the age of 14; and
  • compel government to define “hazardous industries and work” prohibitions and regulations for 16 to 18 year olds.

While these legislative changes set a direction that will greatly improve protections for working children and adolescents, the Ministry must now engage with British Columbians (including youth with recent employment experience), as well as review workplace injury data to determine what jobs, tasks and hours are appropriate.

First Call has been calling for change for over 15 years! Year after year, WorkSafeBC data has shown that too many children – 12 to 14-yr-olds are getting injured working in construction, manufacturing, trade and service jobs.

We welcome changes that prioritize the health and safety of BC’s children and youth.

May 3, 2019: Our briefing note explains the history and current announcements, as well as answers Frequently Asked Questions.

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February 2019: Open Letter to Harry Bains, Minister of Labour

On February 8, First Call sent an open letter to the Honourable Harry Bains, Minister of Labour, calling on him to table legislation at the next sitting of B.C.’s Legislative Assembly aimed at protecting children and youth from employment-related injury and exploitation. Thanks to all the groups who signed that that open letter and the ones who have signed on since! 

In British Columbia, children as young as 12 years old can legally work at virtually any job and task. We’re not talking about babysitting or paper routes, 12-year-olds can work in most industries, the most common being food services and accommodation, but many are working in construction, manufacturing and resource-based jobs. We know where they are working, not because government is monitoring but because this is where they are getting injured.

When the Employment Standards Act was changed in 2003, B.C. became the only province that does not place legal restrictions on the occupations, tasks, or time of day a child can work. Every single year over the past decade, children under 15 were injured on the job seriously enough for WorkSafeBC to pay out over five million dollars in injury claims. In some cases, children have sustained life-altering injuries. Over that same period over 2,000 children under the age of 15 claimed work-related health-care costs.

We urge the Minister to modernize BC’s employment standards to protect children and youth.

The letter is signed by a number of organizations working provincially and federally on behalf of childrens’ rights.

BC Association for Child Development and Intervention
BC Employment Standards Coalition
BC Federation of Labour
BC Government and Service Employees’ Union
BC Retired Teacher’s Association
BC Teachers’ Federation
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives- BC Office
Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children
Canadian Federation of University Women – BC Council
Coalition of Child Care Advocates BC
Community Legal Assistance Society
Developmental Disabilities Association
Family Services of Greater Vancouver
Health Sciences Association
Public Health Association of BC
The Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver
Victoria Child Abuse and Counselling Centre
Victoria Family Court & Youth Justice Committee
West Coast Legal Education Action Fund
Westcoast Child Care Resource Centre
YWCA Metro Vancouver

March 2019 New Endorsers:

  • Citizens for Accessible Neighbourhoods
  • Parents Advocacy Network for Public Education
  • BC Poverty Reduction Coalition
  • New Westminster and District Labour Council
  • Richmond Poverty Response Committee
  • The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs – Pacific Region

If your organization would like to join this call to Minister Bains, please download and sign this letter template, scan and send to info@firstcallbc.org. We will continue to add names to this list of endorsers.

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Our Previous Submissions

First Call’s Open Letter to Minister Bains (February 2019)

First Call’s Submission to the Law Institute’s Employment Standards Review and Minister Bains (August 2018)

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Research

Public Opinion Survey Commissioned by First Call: Mustel Group Survey Report (June 2018)

First Call’s Freedom of Information Requests:

WorkSafeBC Data Tables on Under 15 Accepted Injury Claims – Amount $ of Claims (April 2018)

WorkSafeBC Data Tables on Under 15 Accepted Injury Claims – Number of Injuries (April 2018)

Law Institute of BC Employment Standards Act Reform Project Consultation Paper (June 2018) see pages 203-213 “Employment of Children”

Child Labour is No Accident: The Experience of BC’s Working Children. (2013)

What’s Happening to Our Children?: A Look at Work-Related Injury Claims in BC Over the Past 10 Years (2009)

Do you have a child or youth work related story to share? Please call or email us at info@firstcallbc.org or 604-709-6970

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In the Media

Comment: B.C. children need protection from workplace exploitation
Times Colonist & Prince George Citizen | Adrienne Montani | February 9, 2019

More than $5 million in disability claims paid to kids 15 and under injured on the job in B.C.
The Vancouver Sun | Glenda Luymes | July 5, 2018

Child and youth advocates say “Twelve is too young to work”
CBC Radio | The Early Edition | July 6, 2018

Should we raise the minimum working age in B.C. from 12 to 16? What should that age be?
BC Today with host Angela Sterritt and Guests including Adrienne Montani, Minister Harry Bains, and Irene Lanzinger
CBC Radio | July 6, 2018
Listen to Podcast

Child and youth advocates say ’12 is too young to work’
‘They’re being exploited,’ says Adrienne Montani, who wants the legal working age raised to 16
CBC News | July 7, 2018

B.C. youth advocates calling on provincial government to amend labour laws
The Lawyer’s Daily | Amanda Jerome | July 10, 2018

B.C. needs better rules to govern youth employment
Adrienne Montani | The Province | July 13, 2018

BC’s child labour laws and the need to change them with guest Helesia Luke
Redeye | Co-op Radio | July 14, 2018
Listen to the episode

How young is too young for a child to be employed? with guest Helesia Luke
The Jill Bennett Show | CKNW AM | July 15, 2018
Listen to podcast

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Support

First Call thanks the Law Foundation of British Columbia and Lush for their support of the BC Child Employment Standards Improvement Project.

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Background: History and Research

First Call has been monitoring the situation since Bill 37 was introduced in 2003:

  • April 2004: First Call wrote to the labour minister expressing our concern with the recent policy change , following up in June with a public awareness campaign, “Everyone Counts”
  • October 2009: First Call published What’s Happening to Our Children?: A Look at Work-Related Injury Claims in BC Over the Past 10 Years, examining the startling increase in the number of workplace injury claims by children accepted by WorkSafeBC since BC’s work-start age was lowered to 12 in 2003
  • October 2009: First Call met with the Minister of Labour to present the findings in the report and wrote a follow up letter
  • 2010 -2012: Correspondence with government continued
  • 2012: To better understand the affects of this legislation, First Call undertook research and interview with young workers and produced the report Child Labour is No Accident: The Experience of BC’s Working Children. Premier Clark dismissed the findings in the report and re-asserted the inaccurate claim that parents are in a position to ensure their child’s safety in the workplace.
  • May 2017: Created a campaign handout on the Child Labour in BC Campaign to provide an overview and background of the issues.

As the provincial government was not tracking the effects of Bill 37, First Call decided to write a report. Child Labour Is No Accident: The Experience of BC’s Working Children brings together original research through interviews and focus groups and existing studies to examine the consequences of child labour laws in BC. It focuses on three areas of potential impact: health and safety, wages and working conditions, and education. It also contrasts BC with other jurisdictions.

Addendum

On the eve of publishing the report, we received important new data from WorkSafe BC. Since it was too late to integrate this new data into the report, we have included it as an addendum: Child Labour Is No Accident: Addendum

Key findings of the child labour report include:

  • 43% per cent of youth study participants reported sustaining workplace injuries.
  • Lack of pay for training is a common experience among working children
  • 16% of participants reported having dropped out of school due to their work schedule and/or financial need and 46% reported being too tired and/or not having enough time to complete their homework or participate appropriately at school as a result of working too much.

Media coverage