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Children have rights and protections at work

29 January 2004 Media Statement

Children have rights and protections at work

Labour Minister Margaret Wilson says moves are underway to ensure children and young people are aware of their rights and legal protections at work.

“The recent survey of child employment by the Catholic charity Caritas has highlighted the ongoing need for vigilance. This country has a tradition of children working part-time, but our record for ensuring they are aware of their rights and the protections given to them under the law could be better.”

The Caritas survey does not provide enough information for the Department of Labour to further investigate apparent breaches of child labour laws. The survey was anonymous and Caritas says the privacy of the children surveyed prevents it from identifying those who took part.

Margaret Wilson said a review of children’s employment began in October. This project includes improving information available, coordinating enforcement between agencies and improving the collection of data about child employment. The Department of Labour is due to report on this in March. A two-year project assessing the implications of ratifying International Labour Organisation Convention 138 is also underway.

In the short-term, the Department of Labour today posted easy-to-follow guidelines on its website for children and their employers. Anyone requiring assistance or information is able to ring the Department of Labour’s Employment Relations Service free information service on 0800 800 863.

Margaret Wilson said New Zealand has a tradition of children working – it is relatively common for children over the age of 11 to earn pocket money, to contribute to the family income and help with the family business or farm. “Mostly it is good experience for them. We also know there are, at least, isolated cases of unlawful exploitation. Rarity makes it no less distressing. “

“Knowledge is a safeguard. A basic list of child employment regulations is attached to this statement. I would be grateful if media would assist by publishing this, and I encourage schools, families and employers to use it as a resource.”

Public inquiries to Employment Relations Service free phone 0800 800 863.

Facts sheets available at

Being a young employee

Everyone has the same basic rights at work, regardless of their age. These include:
- Your employer has to give you a written employment agreement
- You are allowed three weeks paid annual holidays after 12 months employment *
- You are allowed 11 paid public holidays if they are days when you would normally work You are allowed five days paid special (sick and bereavement) leave a year after six months employment *
- You can choose for yourself whether to join or not to join a union
- You can get help to sort out problems at work, through mediation or through the Labour Inspectorate

* The Holidays Act 2003, which comes into effect on 1 April 2004, will change some of this. Call Employment Relations Infoline 0800 800 863 for more information.

There is a minimum wage for all employees aged 16 or over. There is no minimum wage for employees under 16. If you’re 16 or 17, the minimum wage is $6.80 an hour. If you’re 18 and over it’s $8.50 an hour. These rates are reviewed every year – check for the latest information.
Everyone has the same basic right to a safe and healthy work environment. There are extra rules for employees under 15, including if you are a trainee or gaining work experience.

If you’re under 15, you can’t work where:
- Goods are being prepared or manufactured for trade or sale;
- Any construction work is being done;
- Any logging or tree-felling is being done; or
- Any other work is being done in that area that is likely to harm you.

These rules also apply if you’re visiting a workplace when you’re under 15. They don’t apply if all your work is done in an office, or in an area used only for selling goods or services. They don’t apply to visitors under direct adult supervision, on a guided tour or who are in areas accessible to the public.
- If you’re under 15 you can’t drive or ride on a tractor, implement or mobile plant.
- If you’re under 15 you can’t operate machinery
- If you’re under 15 you can’t lift heavy loads

If you’re under 16 you can’t work after 10.00 pm or before 6.00 am.

When you’re under 16 you’re legally required to be at school. This means you can’t take a job that involves working during school hours, or at any other time which prevents or interferes with your school attendance. There’s no problem with working during the school holidays, or at weekends.

If you’re under 18 you can’t work in any restricted area of licensed premises (like bars, licensed restaurants or clubs). If you’re under 18 you can’t work as a prostitute.

his factsheet is only a guide, and might not be accurate for all situations. If you’re thinking about getting a job, you can get more information about your rights from Employment Relations Infoline 0800 800 863 or Workinfo 0800 29 90 20

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