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Most young people would like some extra spending money for concert tickets, clothes or the new iPhone 13. But how old does a child have to be to legally work? The answer depends on what state or territory that the young person resides. This article will set out the minimum age of employment in each state or territory, so you can have peace of mind that you are hiring legally.

New South Wales

There is no minimum age for when a person can start working in New South Wales. However, there are additional conditions that depend on a child’s age. For example:

  • if he or she is under 15 and employed in entertainment, a photography business, or door-to-door selling, or under 16 and employed as a model, you must hold an employer’s authority; and
  • if the person is under 18, the business must provide employment terms and conditions equal to those that apply under the comparable NSW state award and industrial legislation.

A young person has to be 17 to enter full-time work. However, they may apply for an exemption to leave school and work full time instead if they have finished Year 10.

Australian Capital Territory

There is no minimum age for when a person can start working in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). However, there are additional conditions for employers whose employees are under the age of 15, including that the employer:

  • can only hire a young person for light work that is not contrary to their best interests (e.g. sports umpiring, working as a cashier or babysitting);
  • can only hire a young person for up to ten hours per week without notifying the Child and Youth Protection Services; and
  • cannot hire the young person without parental consent.

Victoria

A person must be 15 years or older to start working in Victoria. However, there are some exceptions to this rule which allow you to employ a person under the age of 15, including if you work in:

If the person you are looking to employ is under the age of 15 but older than 13, they may work with the permission of their parents. You will require a child employment permit in this scenario.

Northern Territory

There is no minimum age for when employees can start working in the Northern Territory. However, there are additional conditions which depend on the age of the employee. For example, an employer must not require the employee to perform any work that is:

  • between 10 p.m. and before 6 am, if they are under the age of 15; or
  • harmful or likely to be harmful to their physical, mental or emotional wellbeing or involves any exploitation, if they are under the age of 18.

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Queensland

An employee must be 13 years or older to start working in Queensland. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule which allow you to employ a person under the age of thirteen, including if: 

  • you work in a family business;
  • you work in the entertainment industry; or
  • there is some form of supervised employment such as deliveries and charitable collections.

South Australia

There is no minimum age for when a person can start working in South Australia. You cannot, however, employ a child of compulsory school age (between 6 and 16 years of age) during the hours that they are required to attend school. You also cannot require the employee to work at a time that is likely to render them unfit to attend school (i.e. late nights and early mornings). 

Tasmania

There is no minimum age for when a person can start working in Tasmania. There are, however, limits to the type of work that the young person can do when performing or selling in public places. This includes that children under the age of:

  • 11 cannot work in sales; and
  • 14 cannot sell anything between 9 pm and 5 am.

Western Australia

A person must be 15 years or older to start working in Western Australia unless they work;

  • in a family business;
  • in the entertainment industry; or
  • as a volunteer for charities or sporting clubs.

Work During School Hours

A person must be of minimum school leaving age if you would like to employ them to work during school hours. Like the minimum working age, the minimum school leaving age differs between each state and territory. It is currently 14 for every state and territory except for Victoria and Tasmania where it is 16 years of age.

Company Policy

You may want to consider developing a company policy to set out the minimum age required for your employees while keeping in mind the legislative requirements for your state or territory.

For example, McDonald’s has imposed a minimum age policy of 14 which covers all stores Australia wide. They have expanded on what the law says in those states which do not have a minimum working age (NSW, NT, SA and TAS) by adding further conditions for those who are fourteen but not yet 16, including that:

  • their parent or guardian must provide written consent to start work; and
  • they must be able to demonstrate during the interview that they can handle difficult situations and have the skill to fulfil the job requirements.

McDonald’s has implemented this to provide a work environment that can support young people’s academic commitments and safety requirements. It is a good idea to take these into account if you are considering hiring a young person, as children can be more vulnerable to employment exploitation. Young people may also find it more difficult to balance their job with their other commitments.

Key Takeaways

As an employer, it is crucial that you do not employ people who are too young to legally work. However, the requirements of the minimum working age differ from state to state. You should also take into account how a person’s young age can impact on their work. If you have any questions about ensuring that you are hiring workers legally, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

How old must you be to start working?

The age restrictions vary between each state and territory in Australia, so you should check your relevant area’s laws.

What is the minimum age restriction in New South Wales?

There is no minimum age for when a person can start working in New South Wales. However, there are additional conditions that depend on a child’s age.

What is the minimum age restriction in Victoria?

In Victoria, a child must be 15 years or older to work. There are some important exceptions to this law if someone under 15 would like to work, namely if they work in a family business or the entertainment industry.

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