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Improved health and safety for working children

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand

25 September 2008

Caritas welcomes improved health and safety coverage for working children

Health and safety regulation changes giving child contractors the same protection as children working as employees, are being welcomed by Caritas, the Catholic agency for Justice, Peace and Development.

The changes, announced in a letter from the Department of Labour, are expected to come into force on 1 April 2009.

Caritas has undertaken two surveys of children’s working conditions, and expressed concern in both 2004 and 2007 that children working as contractors were not as well protected as children who were directly employed.

Caritas Director Michael Smith said this is particularly so for letterbox delivery work. The agency found that the health and safety conditions of adult postal workers and directly employed child newspaper delivery workers were generally better than those of children contracted by companies to deliver pamphlets and advertising circulars to household letterboxes.

“We recommended that the single step most likely to deliver protection to child workers would be to require a direct employment relationship. This is the intention of a private member’s bill by Darien Fenton, and we strongly endorse that as the best way to improve children’s overall working conditions.

“However, changing health and safety regulations to bring both child employees and child contractors under the same level of protection is a good first step, with the potential to reduce the number of accidents and injuries experienced by working children under the age of 15.”

Mr Smith said the changes will still need ongoing monitoring and enforcement by government agencies such as the Department of Labour, as well as by employers, parents and unions. “Many parents have reported to us a lack of interest by the Department of Labour in their children’s working experiences, because the children were contractors rather than employees. Our expectation is that this will improve following the regulatory changes, which make employment status irrelevant in enforcement of health and safety concerns.”

Caritas’ 2007 report Delivering the Goods showed health and safety concerns from child delivery workers included traffic accidents, inadequate monitoring of bikes and equipment (including the wearing of safety helmets), dog bites, strains caused by carrying heavy loads, and children working at dusk or after dark without similar safety clothing required of adult postal workers during the day.


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