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Employment Law Challenge: Does Ontario Law Prohibit Child Labour?

I was asked by one of my students the other day, as we discussed the issue of child labour in India that was in the news last week, what law prohibits an employer in Ontario from hiring children.

Certainly, the exploitation of children in Canadian factories and mines is a dark part of Canada’s labour history, documented in many books and government inquiry reports.  But most people assume there are laws that would outright prohibit the employment of children in Canada today.  Right?

I’ve been asked about this before by someone in the media, and I had to think about it.

For my students who are having Employment Law withdrawal in these hot and hazy days of summer (or anyone else whose interested), I challenge you to go find the answer to this question:

Can an employer in Ontario (or any other province) hire a 9 year old to work to work in a factory, retail store, or to sew stuffed animals or soccer balls?   If not, what law (statute) prohibits this?

Assume the work takes place on weekends and after school, so there is no issue about the child being pulled from school.

Comments and answers left through the comment feature will be posted here.  Begin.

Socialize

5 Responses to Employment Law Challenge: Does Ontario Law Prohibit Child Labour?

  1. Chris Reply

    June 20, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    As I understand it, the only prohibition on child labour is on the kind that keeps kids out of school. So yeah, a factory could indeed employ nine year olds on weekends and evenings.

  2. Dan Standing Reply

    June 21, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Can an employer in Ontario (or any other province) hire a 9 year old to work to work in a factory, retail store, or to sew stuffed animals or soccer balls? If not, what law (statute) prohibits this?

    Assume the work takes place on weekends and after school, so there is no issue about the child being pulled from school.

    From the New Brunswick perspective, s.39 of the Employment Standards Act sets various general restrictions on the employment of people under the age of 16. The work cannot be harmful to the child’s health, welfare or development, and the work cannot be for more than 6 hours in any day or more than 3 hours on a school day (as long as the time spent at school and at work doesn’t exceed 8 hours in total). Also, children under 16 can’t be expected to work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

    S.40 lists 8 different occupations or industries that children under the age of 14 cannot be employed in. Of the four examples provided in the question, it appears that 40(a): “any industrial undertaking” would rule out all but the retail job.

    However, the general rules in sections 39 and 40 could be overcome if the Director under the Act issues a permit allowing the child to be employed if the work would not be harmful to the child and would not contravene the Occupational Health and Safety Act, would not prejudice the child’s to attend and learn at school, and if the child’s guardian consents.

    Therefore, in New Brunswick, the 9 year old child would be entitled to work in a retail store if the hours of work comply with section 39 and if it is not harmful to the child’s health. For the child to work in a factory or industrial setting (sewing stuffed animals and soccer balls), the Director and the child’s guardian would have to consent, and the working hours limitations would still apply.

  3. Bob Barnetson Reply

    June 22, 2012 at 9:12 am

    I expect this is addressed in the occupational health and safety act or its regulations. I recall Ontario allowing 15-year-olds to work in factories and 14-year-olds to work in other industrial operations. That said, most occupations appear wide open to children in Ontario (perhaps subject to child welfare laws).

    This is likely in contravention of ILO Convention 138 (which Canada has not signed but the rest of the world seems on board with) which limits those under 16 to light work and indicates minimum employment-age ought to be the minimum school leave age.

  4. Laura Bowman Reply

    June 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Part 1 Safety regulations under OHSA

    4. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the minimum age of,
    (a) a worker; or
    (b) a person who is permitted to be in or about an industrial establishment,
    shall be,
    (c) sixteen years of age in a logging operation;
    (d) fifteen years of age in a factory other than a logging operation; and
    (e) fourteen years of age in a workplace other than a factory. R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 851, s. 4 (1).
    (2) Clause (1) (b) does not apply to a person who,
    (a) while in the industrial establishment, is accompanied by a person who has attained the age of majority;
    (b) is being guided on a tour of the industrial establishment;
    (c) is in an area of the industrial establishment used for sales purposes; or
    (d) is in an area of the industrial establishment to which the public generally has access. R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 851, s. 4 (2).
    (3) Clauses (1) (d) and (e) do not apply with respect to a worker who works as a performer in the entertainment and advertising industry. O. Reg. 179/07, s. 1.
    (4) In subsection (3),
    “entertainment and advertising industry” means the industry of producing,
    (a) live or broadcast performances, or
    (b) visual, audio or audio-visual recordings of performances, in any medium or format; (“industrie du spectacle et de la publicité”)
    “performance” means a performance of any kind, including theatre, dance, ice skating, comedy, musical productions, variety, circus, concerts, opera, modelling and voice-overs, and “performer” has a corresponding meaning. (“representation”) O. Reg. 179/07, s. 1

  5. Denise Reply

    April 24, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Is there a law in place that prohibits employees from bringing a child into work on a PA day? (even when the employer allows it)

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