Hiring young people

Children working in British Columbia are covered by the Employment Standards Act. Children must work under the direct supervision of someone who is at least 19 years old.

On this page:


When a permit is required

A parent or guardian needs to provide written permission for their child to work, and the employer must keep a record of the written consent. There are different requirements for hiring young people depending on the age of the child.


Under 12

Employers need a permit unless:


Ages 12 and 13

Employers need a permit unless:

  • The child will be working as a camp assistant, assistant coach, referee or umpire and will not be performing any tasks listed in not light work
  • The child is working for a family owned business and will not be performing any tasks listed in not light work
  • The child will be performing in the entertainment industry

Ages 14 and 15

Employers need a permit unless:

  • The child will be working as a camp assistant, assistant coach, referee or umpire and will not be performing any tasks listed in not light work
  • The child is working for a family owned business and will not be performing any tasks listed in not light work
  • The child will be performing in the entertainment industry
  • The child will be doing light work only

16 and older

Employers who hire a young person who is 16 years of age or older must:


Light work and not light work

"Light work" means occupations that are not considered harmful to a child's health or development. Employers intending to hire children under 16 need to apply for a child employment permit if the child will be performing any tasks listed in not light work

Light work includes

  • Administrative and secretarial work
  • The following work at premises selling, or providing, goods or services to customers:
    • Assembling, sorting and packaging orders
    • Bagging and carrying customers’ orders
    • Laying out displays
    • Price marking, labelling and tagging goods
    • Stocking shelves
    • Unpacking, counting, recording, packing and weighing goods
  • The following work at premises preparing, selling or serving food or beverages:
    • Preparing food
    • Bussing tables
    • Dishwashing
    • Hosting duties
    • Setting up and taking down tables, chairs, trays, dishes, beverage dispensers and other dining room or buffet equipment, furniture and supplies
  • Setting up, taking down, retrieving and storing sports and recreation equipment
  • Attending to a child
  • Cleaning and tidying
  • Laundry and ironing
  • The following yard and maintenance work:
    • Clearing leaves
    • Clearing snow
    • Cutting grass
    • Painting, other than spray painting
    • Repairing items
  • Gardening and hand harvesting
  • Work related to the care of domesticated animals
  • Packing, moving and unpacking household goods
  • Delivering newspapers, flyers, food, beverages or other goods
  • Troubleshooting user issues with technology

Light work occupations

  • Cashier
  • Sports or recreational coach or assistant coach
  • Computer programmer
  • Golf caddy
  • Sports or recreational instructor
  • Lifeguard or assistant lifeguard
  • Peer counsellor
  • Performing artist
  • Salesperson, other than a door-to-door salesperson
  • Recreation or community program attendant
  • Summer or day camp leader, counsellor, assistant or attendant
  • Messenger or courier
  • Referee or umpire
  • Server of food or drink or both
  • Tutor or instructor
  • Visual artist or graphic designer
  • Writer, editor or similar occupation in communication

"Not light work" means work that could be considered harmful to a child's health, safety or development.

Work and occupations that are not "light work"

  • Repairing, maintaining or operating machinery, tools or other equipment that could harm the child
  • Entering or working at a place where a minor cannot legally enter or work
  • Entering or working at a site of construction, heavy manufacturing, or heavy industrial work or other work that could harm the child
  • Entering or working in a place designed to retain a low oxygen or toxic environment
  • Entering a walk-in freezer or cooler except to retrieve an item
  • Working with goods or providing services that a minor cannot legally distribute, purchase, use or consume
  • Lifting, carrying or moving an item or animal that puts the child at risk of injury
  • Working with or exposure to hazardous chemicals or materials as defined in section 13 of the Workers Compensation Act

Director's discretion to issue a permit

The decision to issue a child employment permit is subject to the Director’s approval. In exercising their discretion under the Act, the Director of Employment Standards will only issue a child employment permit after assessing whether an exception to the standard provisions of the Act is reasonable in the circumstances. When reviewing an application, the Director assesses factors such as:

  • The child's health and wellbeing of the child, including any risks or hazards they may be exposed to
  • The child's ability to assess risk and refuse tasks they may be uncomfortable performing
  • The consent provided by the parent or guardian and the child’s school authority
  • The suitability of the employment for the child

The Director exercises their discretion with a focus on the health and wellbeing of the child. This includes:

  • Potential hazards or dangers present in the child's proposed workplace
  • Proper compensation for work performed
  • Employment agreements that meet all minimum employment standards

The Director may assess this in part by reviewing the employer’s previous compliance history with the Employment Standards Act and other labour related legislation.

Typically, permits for children under the age of 12 are only granted under extraordinary circumstances such as low risk, short-term employment situations.

If an employer requires a permit to employ a child, the parent or guardian of the child must consent to the employment relationship. The recommendation of a school authority is needed when a permit is required and the child will work while the school year is in session. While the consent and recommendation are required, they are not the only factors that determine whether the Director will approve a child employment permit application.


Minimum employment standards

Employment agreements for children should meet all minimum employment standards including:


Hours of work

Children who are under 15 years old cannot:

  • Be required to work during school hours
  • Work more than 4 hours on school days
  • Work more than 7 hours on a non-school day
  • Work more than 20 hours in a week with 5 school days
  • Work more than 35 hours a week when school is not in session

Safety and injuries

Employers need to report workplace injuries and illnesses to WorkSafeBC within 3 days. It is against the law for employers to tell a worker to not file a claim.

Under the Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, workers in B.C. have 3 key health and safety rights:

  1. The right to know about hazards in the workplace
  2. The right to participate in health and safety activities
  3. The right to refuse unsafe work without being punished or fired

Parents play a unique role in influencing how children think about safety at work. Sharing knowledge and experiences with children can help them establish safe attitudes and behaviors. Employers are ultimately responsible for a worker's health and safety, but everyone has a role to play in keeping children safe in the workplace. Employers are required to provide safety orientation and training to their workers before they start a new job or task. Employers must keep records of all orientation and training.

Employers must ensure that they have proper first aid procedures in place for their workplace. Connect with someone you know who works, or has worked, in the industry your child may work in. Encourage your child to ask questions about health and safety in the workplace.

Consider the following questions based on the industry your child is working in.

  • Construction: Has the employer provided them with all personal protective equipment required for the job? Does the equipment work and fit?
  • Food service: Have they been trained in knife safety and kitchen safety to prevent slips, trips, falls, and burns in the kitchen?
  • Manufacturing: Were they shown how to lock out equipment? Do they understand safeguarding and how it protects them?
  • Retail: Do they understand how to lift and handle heavy objects? 
  • Transportation: What are the safety procedures for using their own vehicle for work purposes? Have they been trained on any mobile equipment?

Visit WorkSafeBC young and new workers for more information.


Find out if you need a child employment permit

Click the button below to discover whether a permit is needed in a specific situation and access the online application form.

Find out if you need a permit

A parent or guardian decides if it's in the best interests of their child to have a job. If a child employment permit is not required, they must provide written consent (PDF, 130.7KB) for their child to work. The employer must keep a record of the written consent.


Young people in the entertainment industry

There are special employment conditions for children that work in the entertainment industry, because they may be very young and will likely work during school hours.

If a young person works in the entertainment industry in a position other than an actor, background performer or extra, the general rules for employing young people apply.

Employers need written consent from a parent or guardian (PDF, 20.2KB) to hire a young person as an actor, performer (including background performer) or extra for film, radio, video, television, theatre, dance, music, opera or circus performances.

The employer (via the assistant director, casting director or talent agent) should explain to the parent or guardian what the role of their child will be.

Don't leave your child unsupervised

One of the child's parents or guardians should supervise the child at all times. If that’s not possible, you can assign an adult (over 19 years old) as the child's chaperone. The chaperone needs written permission from a parent or guardian to make decisions on behalf of the child. The chaperone cannot be the child's employer or tutor, or an employee of either.

The supervising adult should be present on the set within sight and sound of the child. The employer can provide an audio and visual monitor when filming scenes.

For live entertainment, up to 3 children can be assigned to a supervising adult that is also working as an extra or background performer on the same production set.

For recorded entertainment, the ratio of children to supervising adults is:
 

  • 1 child per adult for children aged 15 days to under 6 years old
  • 3 children per adult for children aged 6 to under 12 years old
  • 5 children per adult for children aged 12 to 15 years old

Prepare for a medical emergency

Make sure the employer has authorization to treat your child in a medical emergency.


Disclose the child's condition

Provide the employer with a written summary of your any conditions or medical history that could impact your child’s ability to perform.


Know the child's role

Before your child starts work, review their script or discuss their role with the employer. The employer should provide an interpreter if necessary.


Provide enough rest

Work with the employer to make sure your child has enough rest and playtime.


Start and end the work day

Plan to arrive 15 to 30 minutes early. Don't be late. Don't bring other children, relatives or friends. Check in with the designated person on the set (usually from the assistant director's department) and the tutor, if there is one. Sign out at the end of the workday – don't let someone else sign out for your child.


Manage income

You must know how much your child earns and when they will be paid. Make sure that appropriate deductions or other payments are made on your child's behalf.

 

Work hours include time spent doing hair, makeup, wardrobe or fittings. Split shifts are not allowed. Children cannot work more than five days per week.

Work begins at call time

The workday starts at the child's call time or when they're required to start work. The earliest work can start is 5 am.


Work ends at wrap time

The end of the workday is when the young person is no longer wearing makeup or a costume. It may include travel time or time spent waiting for transportation. The latest a child can work is 10 pm if the next day is a school day or 12:30 am if the next day is not a school day. If school is not in session a child can work until 2 a.m.

Maximum work hours by age
Age Maximum work hours per day Time before camera
15 days to less than 3 years 8 hours Minimum 20-minute break for every 15 consecutive minutes
3 to 5 years old 8 hours Minimum 15-minute break for every 30 consecutive minutes
6 to 11 years old 8 hours Minimum 10-minute break for every 45 consecutive minutes
12 to 14 years old 10 hours Minimum 10-minute break for every 60 consecutive minutes

Employers must apply to alter hours of work

The hours of work cannot be changed before receiving written permission from the Employment Standards Branch. Approval is usually only given for special circumstances like location availability, live television productions or filming outside during the early morning or late night.

As soon as the shooting schedule is known and at least 48 hours (two working days) before the date when the written approval is required, send a written request to ESBDataIntegrity@gov.bc.ca that includes:

  • The reason for the request
  • A copy of the parent's or guardian's written consent
  • The name of the young person(s) involved
  • The date of birth of the young person(s)
  • The name and contact numbers for the parent/guardian
  • The name and contact number of the young person's tutor (if applicable)
  • The change to work hours/days being requested – include start and finish times
  • The description of the scene, location, and conditions
  • Details of provisions to be made for the young person if flexibility is granted (e.g. sheltered area for breaks, meals provided, transportation, arrangements to leave the shoot if unable to continue working etc.)
  • The name, job title and contact information for person representing the production making the request

The Employment Standards Branch may interview the child's parent/guardian, school, tutor, and representatives from the production company.

If approval is given, it might also include additional requirements like making special provisions available for the child and their parent or guardian (e.g a heated trailer with bed). Written approval does not create a precedent for any future considerations or requests. 

 


Wages and protection of income

All time on set, including tutoring time, is paid work time. Children are entitled to a minimum daily pay – at least two hours per day. Meal breaks are not included in paid time.

Children's financial rights are independent of their parents and families. If a child earns more than $2,000 on a production, the employer must pay 25% of their earnings over $2,000 to the Public Guardian and Trustee to hold in trust for the child.

Sometimes, very young children are hired for specific roles. They must be at least 15 days old.

To hire a child under the age of 4 for live entertainment, employers need to apply for a child employment permit.

Parents or guardians who decide to hire a talent agent should:

  • Read and understand contracts before signing with a talent agency – get legal advice, if necessary
  • Know the rules for talent agencies

Contact your child's agent to help with:

  • Concerns or questions about your child's employment contract, voucher or release
  • Arranging for special food, medication or education requirements for your child

 


What you can do​

If you're having issues with an employer, find out what you can do: