The BC Ministry of Labour is making a special plea to the farm sector for input on new regulations governing teen workers.
Bill 8, which the legislature passed in May, raised the minimum employment age from 12 to 16 years in a bid to protect young workers. Youth aged 14 and 15 can still hold employment with the consent of their parents, but will be restricted to “light duty.” The definition of the phrase wasn’t defined, pending the development of regulations.
The current consultation, which runs until November 15, will assist in the development of the regulation.
“We especially would like to hear from farmers and family-run businesses who would like to have their kids involved in the family business,” the province says on the consultation’s homepage (https://engage.gov.bc.ca/childemployment/).
However, children who help out on their family’s farm aren’t covered by the legislation or the regulations the government seeks to develop unless they’re registered employees.
“The new age restrictions and future regulations around light work are about employee-employer relationships – they are not about children doing family chores,” labour minister Harry Bains told Country Life in BC in a written statement.
However, he said, “farming families and communities have unique circumstances when it comes to children and work.” He wants to make sure that children and work co-exist safely.
“Getting kids involved in agriculture from a young age is critical to raising the next generation of talented farmers and ranchers,” he said. “We want to be sure we are supporting this practice while protecting young people from injuries.”
How many youth under the age of 16 work as employees on the province’s farms isn’t known, but WorkSafe BC saw 20 disability claims for farm workers aged 12 to 15 between 2009 and 2018.