The NZEE policy commits members to not employ children under age 16, and any employment of them must be outside of school hours and not between the hours of 10 pm and 6am. Members further commit to noy employ persons under 18 in what is called hazardous work.
The International labour Organisation regards Agriculture as an area where such hazardous risks exist. In fact ILO estimates that at least 210,000 agricultural workers die in accidents each year. These are, of course not all children, but it does highlight the need for increased vigilance when looking at the tasks you may ask younger people to perform.
UNICF regards child labour to be work undertaken by a child that is harmful to their health and safety or ability to have a childhood and which interferes with or prevents their education. They estimate that some 160 million children in 2020 were subjected to child labour with that number exacerbated by the impact of covid19.
However, it is important that not all “child work” is child labour. Many children in NZ work. They help around the house, on the farm , deliver newspapers and work in part time jobs after school and in their holidays . Such work can help them learn new skills, develop responsibility and help them prepare for later employment.
In New Zealand there is no separate legislation on the minimum age of employment, instead a range of legislation constrain what young workers can and cannot do e.g. children under 14 years cannot babysit. Some specific restrictions are also modified as they apply to farms. The general rule is no one under 15 can drive a tractor yet a child over 12 can on a farm if they are trained, in training or live on the property.
They key here is to ensure any work a child does, does not interfere in their education or have their childhood. Under our safe work legislation employers are required to provide a safe place of work. This is doubly so when young workers are employed. Revisit training regularly and supervise them. If they are under 18 don’t have them mixing or spraying chemicals, cutting down trees or using heavy equipment.
Common sense needs to be applied as well as ensuring that what you are wanting them to do is permitted. If in doubt check with SafeWork.
Sometimes you may also be approached by children that want to leave school and get a job that aren’t yet 16. In such cases you need to talk to the child’s parents and/or guardians to get their consent. You should also check with the Ministry of Education to ensure you are not creating a liability. Often having such workers in a recognised training scheme can also facilitate their employment.
Tūhana Business and Human Rights is NZEE’s Human Rights Foundation Partner, to help members implement the UNGP framework in their operations and help identify and prioritize the risks they pose to people through their own business operations and supply chain and develop responses that look to prevent, mitigate, or remedy human rights issues.