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The minimum working age in Tasmania. Is it 14 years and 9 months?

It is a commonly held view that children must be aged at least 14 years and 9 months in order to be employed in Tasmania.

There is no blanket minimum working age in Tasmania.  There is also no legislation that explicitly regulates the employment of children and young people.

Under the provisions of the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 (WHS Act) an employer is required to ensure that an employee is competent to do the work, and to provide a safe workplace for an employee.  In particular, an employer must provide any information,
instruction, training and supervision reasonably necessary to ensure that each employee is
safe from injury and risks to health (s9(1)(c)).  This applies to employing young people, as
there are no age limitations on this provision in the WHS Act.  

The Children, Young Persons and their Families Act (CYPF Act) also contains some specific restrictions in relation to public entertainment by children and trading by children in public places.

Under section 93 a person must not procure, induce, permit, counsel or assist a child to take part in a public entertainment which, in relation to that child, is a restricted public entertainment.  This provision does not apply where the net proceeds of the entertainment are for the benefit of a school or charitable purpose, or where it takes place on premises used for conducting religious services.  The Minister may declare any public entertainment or class of entertainment to be restricted public entertainment in respect of children under 14 years of age, although at the time of writing there was no record of the Minister having made such a declaration.  However, the Secretary of the DHHS may give written permission for a child to take part in the public entertainment.

Under section 94 of the CYPF Act, children aged under 11 years may not perform work where it involves offering anything for sale in a public place.  Between the ages of 11 and 14 years, children are prohibited from offering anything for sale in a public place (either in that place or elsewhere) between 9pm of any day and 5am of the following day.  These restrictions do not apply where the net proceeds are devoted to the benefit of a school or a charitable purpose.

There are also restrictions relating to employment whilst a young person is studying.  It is a requirement that young people complete Year 12, attain a Certificate III or turn 18 (whichever occurs first).  Young people are not permitted to work for an employer during school hours unless an application for part time attendance or an application for an exemption from attending school has been made and approved by the Department of Education, Children and Young People.

Part-time work for a student is often their first experience in the workforce.  In many cases their lack of knowledge about appropriate workforce conditions, together with limited life experience and self-confidence can make them vulnerable to exploitative practices.

Research in NSW and Victoria has identified exploitative practices in areas such as:

  • Unpaid training;
  • Non-payment of loadings or penalty rates;
  • No advance notice of rosters or roster changes;
  • Underpayment;
  • No provision for meal breaks; and
  • Wages not paid in money.

There is an absence of direct research in Tasmania, however, in 2011 a Uniting Church survey of children under 16 working in Tasmania found evidence that a number of these practices are also occurring in Tasmania[1].

Recent cases in Victoria, where child employment is much more highly regulated compared with Tasmania, show that regulators will quickly step in where breaches of laws relating to children are alleged.

IVE Distributions Pty Ltd, which distributes catalogues to homes, admitted to breaking the law by employing 318 children, aged 11 to 14, without child employment permits, between 5 July and 6 September 2022.

Wage Inspectorate Victoria began investigating IVE Distributions after receiving a tip-off from a parent whose child had been offered work as an ‘independent contractor’ with the company.

In sentencing, Magistrate Timothy Gattuso noted that businesses had an obligation to make themselves aware of the laws in the jurisdictions they operate, and that Ive Distributions did not undertake due diligence in this instance.

Ive Distributions was placed on an undertaking to be of good behaviour for 3 years with the condition it pay $4,000 to the court fund and $3,000 in costs.

In another case, Wage Inspectorate Victoria investigated TJX Australia Pty Limited, trading as TK Maxx (who has opened a store in Tasmania) as part of a compliance blitz in December 2022.

The Inspectorate said it found TK Maxx Werribee had engaged a child under 15 without a permit and warned the business the child must stop work immediately.  However, the employer proceeded to employ another child without a permit the next week.

The investigation also found the parental consent form used by TK Maxx noted that children would be working in line with child employment restrictions, but later TK Maxx admitted to breaching those restrictions.

TK Maxx Werribee pleaded guilty to:

  • employing three children under 15 without a permit on 12 occasions;
  • failing to ensure a child was supervised by someone with a Working with Children Clearance on three occasions;
  • employing a child for more hours than they are permitted to work on three occasions;
  • employing a child later than 9pm on three occasions; and
  • failing to provide children with a 30-minute rest break for every three hours worked on 11 occasions.

The Melbourne Magistrates Court placed TK Maxx on an adjourned undertaking for 12 months with the condition it pay $5,000 to the court fund.

Employers should be aware of their obligations when employing children and young people.

The Fair Work Ombudsman provides a range of information which is tailored for employers of children and young people:

If you need any advice about such obligations, please contact our Dispute Resolution Team.

[1] Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, ‘Report of survey undertaken in August 2011 of the experience of those under 16 years of age who study and undertake paid employment’.