Upcoming Changes to Victoria’s Child Employment Laws and the Importance of Employment Law Compliance in Franchise Systems
From 1 July 2023, laws in Victoria surrounding the employment of children (under 15 years of age) will see a number of changes:
- A child employment licensing system will replace the existing permit system. Where an application is assessed and a licence is issued, employers will be able to employ multiple children under one licence, rather than applying for individual permits for every child that is employed.
- Employers can apply for a 12-month licence for work in the entertainment industry or a 24-month licence for other types of work.
- The new system introduces a ‘fit and proper person’ test which includes, among other things, consideration of an employer’s compliance with child employment and other relevant workplace laws.
- “Nominated officer” for each licence holder will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the child employment laws and that any licence conditions are met.
- A licence will not be required for children working in their own family’s business (defined as a business of their parent or of a person with parental responsibility over that child). However, children working in their family business must be directly supervised while they are working, only perform light work and must not work during school hours on a school day.
- Supervisors of children under 15 years of age in the workplace will be required to be 18 years or above.
- The Wage Inspectorate of Victoria has been provided with additional compliance and enforcement tools to enable it to effectively carry out its role as a risk-based, modern regulator. It will have the power to issue:
a. compliance notices as a way of achieving compliance with child employment laws; and
b. infringement notices where a breach has been detected but may not meet the criteria for prosecution set out in the Wage Inspectorate’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy.
- The penalties for employing a child without a permit/licence will be increased to 1200 penalty units for a body corporate ($230,772 in FY23/24) and 240 penalty units for a natural person ($46,155 in FY23/24).
As a reminder to employers, there are existing restrictions on when businesses can employ children and how long they can work:
- During a school term, children can be employed for a maximum of 3 hours a day and 12 hours per week.
- During school holidays, children can be employed up to 6 hours a day and 30 hours a week.
- Children must receive a 30-minute rest break after every 3 hours of work.
In recent news, Muffin Break Southland is facing 360 criminal charges over child employment law breaches.
Reminder for Franchisors – the importance of network compliance with employment laws
The non-compliance of one or more Franchisees can negatively affect the reputation of the entire franchise system. It is therefore in the best interests of the franchise network to ensure that all franchisees comply with their employment law obligations.
We note that Franchisors are liable under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) if they knew or could be reasonably expected to have known that their Victorian Franchisees were in contravention of child employment laws. For more information about the types of employment laws that a Franchisor could be liable under, please read our previous article.
Franchisors should consider protecting their franchise system by:
- Informing Victorian franchisees about the changes in child employment laws which recently came into operation;
- Completing the Fair Work Ombudsman’s online course which provides general guidance about workplace laws for Franchisors and provides practical tips about how to promote employment law compliance to Franchisees;
- Using provisions in the Franchise Agreement to require Franchisees to comply with their employment law obligations; and
- Utilising auditing and inspection powers under the Franchise Agreement to monitor franchisees’ compliance with employment laws.
It is important to be aware of changes to child employment laws in Victoria, and to adapt your processes accordingly.
If you have any questions about the changes to child employment laws, or if you are a Franchisor that would like to learn how to promote workplace law compliance to your franchisee network, please contact the MST Lawyers Employment Law or Franchise Teams by email email@example.com or call +61 3 8540 0200 to discuss your options.