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B.C. government raises general working age

The B.C. government is raising the general working age from 12 to 16 to help protect youth.

Youth aged 14 and 15 will be able to continue working, but the province has defined the type of jobs they are allowed to do.

Provincial officials said 14 and 15-year-olds can participate in “light work” with permission from their parents.

Light work includes jobs like lifeguarding, caddying, light farm and yard work, retail work and food service.

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Government officials said youth under 14 will still be allowed to work in businesses and farms that are owned by an immediate family member, as long as the work meets safety criteria.

Provincial officials said the new changes won’t restrict children from babysitting or part-time newspaper delivery.

“Work experience can be a rewarding growth opportunity for young people, but it should never compromise their safety,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour. “We know that most employers make safety their top priority for all their workers and these changes clarify what types of employment are age-appropriate for young workers.”

Vice-president of Western Canada with Restaurants Canada, Mark von Schellwitz said the new regulations will help businesses better understand what work is suitable for youth.

“In the restaurant industry, we rely on young workers to fill many of the jobs, especially at the entry-level. So we welcome this clear direction on what constitutes appropriate employment for them,” added Schellwitz. “Restaurateurs want all staff and their families to know that when they join our workforce, their duties will be safe and suitable for their age and experience.”

Prior to the changes, B.C. was the only province in Canada that allowed the employment of children as young as 12.

According to provincial officials, WorkSafeBC reported more than $1.1 million paid in job-related disability claims for workers 14 or younger between 2007 and 2016.

Work is also underway to define “hazardous work” for 16 to 18-year-olds, with regulation changes expected later this year.

“We are committed to protecting B.C.’s workers of all ages from unsafe working conditions and unfair labour practices,” Bains said. “And we are improving B.C.’s employment standards to reflect the evolving needs of our workplaces. I look forward to continuing that work.”

Provincial officials said the new changes will come into effect on October 15th, 2021, to give employers and youth who are already working time to adjust.

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