To provide practice guidance to Department of Communities' staff on responding to queries and undertaking assessments regarding a child in employment, and in issuing a notice to limit or prohibit the employment of a child or children.
The Act places a range of restrictions on where children under 18 years can be employed and the kind of work they can do. A child is considered to be employed when he or she is engaged to carry out work, whether or not they receive payment, or any other kind of reward (s.188 of the Act). A brief summary of the laws are as follows:
A child of compulsory school age must not be employed during the hours they are required to either attend school or take part in an educational programme, except where there is a Notice of Arrangements or a school exemption (s.29 of the School Education Act 1999).
For further information, refer to the Employment of Children Laws Information Sheet (in related resources).
All general enquiries about the employment of children laws should be directed to the Department of Commerce, Wageline on 1300 655 266, except where the concern is about the wellbeing of a child in a workplace.
All enquiries regarding the wellbeing or safety of a child in the workplace should be directed to the policy officer, Policy and Service Design on (08) 9222 2555, The policy officer will consult with the manager, child protection policy and a decision will be made about the most appropriate response to the concern.
A safety and wellbeing assessment (SWA) in relation to a child in employment involves assessing whether the child’s safety and/or wellbeing may be jeopardised by being employed, or by the nature or extent of the child’s work; and/or whether the nature of the business, or the work carried out is considered harmful to all children in the workplace.
Authorised officers from Policy and Service Design will generally lead the assessment. They can use reasonable force and request a police officer or other person to accompany them (as required). The relevant district office and/or Crisis Care Unit will be advised of the assessment and may be requested to assist in the process, particularly where there may be an ongoing role for Communities.
Commerce LR will be consulted about whether they have a role in the assessment, including: accompanying authorised Department officers on a work place visit to provide support; providing information about a business or employer; and requisitioning information from the employer about employee details.
Where the parent’s details are known, they should be informed about the nature of the concern, the process involved in an assessment and their views sought on the child’s employment. The parent’s permission to interview the child must also be sought.
Depending on the nature of the concern, other agencies may also be involved, including the Western Australia Police (Licensing Enforcement) or the Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor (regarding possible breaches of the Liquor Licensing Act). An interagency strategy meeting may be appropriate to gather relevant information and plan actions to be taken.
Copies of Part 7 of the Act, and specifically s.195 Powers of authorised officers, must be given to each person interviewed at the place of employment.
The Department's authorised officers can interview the child and/or any person at the workplace or elsewhere. The person is required to answer and should be told that the penalty for refusing to answer or giving false or misleading information is a fine of up to $6,000 (s.195 of the Act).
The SWA should consider factors such as:
Where it is assessed that the child’s immediate safety or wellbeing is in danger or may be detrimental to his or her wellbeing, the child may be asked to leave work immediately until a decision about issuing a notice is made.
All decisions and case plans must be developed and documented in consultation with, and approved by, the manager, Policy and Service Design.
The child’s parents, the employer and the child should be contacted to discuss the Department's assessment and decision. The parents and/or the employer may voluntarily decide to terminate the child’s employment or take other actions that change the child’s work environment.
The Department should issue a notice where the decision is made to either prohibit or limit a child’s employment (s193 of the Act) or employment of all children (s194A of the Act).
Wherever possible and appropriate, the referrer will be provided with a level of feedback, guided by the nature of the relationship of the referrer with the child and family and the referrer’s ongoing involvement with the case.
The completed Form 407 Notice to Prohibit or Limit the Employment of a Child Under Section 193(2) for the parent/s of the child should be signed by the Director Policy and Service Design after consultation with the General Law Unit to ensure that the document, and the issuing of the document, is legally correct. A copy for the child and the employer/s of the child should also be prepared. The signed notices must be given, or sent by registered mail, to each party.
A copy of the notice should also be sent to the Manager, Compliance Services at Commerce LR.
Where there are ongoing support needs or protective concerns for the child or family, the case will be referred to the relevant district office.
The completed Form 408 Notice to Prohibit or Limit the Employment of Children in a Particular Business or Place Under Section 194A(2) for the employer should be signed by the director, Policy and Service Design after consultation with the General Law Unit to ensure it is legally correct. It must be given, or sent by registered mail, to the employer. The employer is required to give a copy of the notice to each child employed in the business or place at the time of receiving the notice.