Introduction of Bill 19, An Act respecting the regulation of work by children: the main amendments proposed by the Quebec government
On March 28, the Minister of Labour introduced Bill 19, an Act respecting the regulation of work by children (the “Bill”), which establishes in particular a minimum working age of 14 and a maximum number of hours of work for children subject to compulsory school attendance. This Bill is presented in the wake of massive and noticeable entry of young workers into the market in the context of shortage of unskilled workers exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Work performed by these children has received significant media coverage in recent months, in particular because of the concerns raised—especially regarding their health and safety and the risks of school dropouts and disengagement—further to their increased presence on the labour market. This legal newsletter will first provide a brief overview of the existing rules governing work by children and outline the amendments proposed by the Bill. CURRENT LEGISLATION Currently, there is no minimum age for work or a maximum number of hours of work per week in Quebec. The Act respecting labour standards1 already provides certain rules that apply to work performed by children. The following rules remain unchanged: Prohibition of work performed by a child that is disproportionate to the child’s capacity, or that is likely to be detrimental to the child’s education, health or physical or moral development.2 Prohibition of work performed during school hours by a child subject to compulsory school attendance.3 In Quebec, the obligation to attend school extends to the last day of school in the school year in which the child attains 16 years of age or in which the child graduates if they are under 16 years of age.4 The employer must ensure that the child’s work is scheduled such that the child can attend school during school hours.5 Prohibition of work by a child between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. if the child is subject to compulsory school attendance, except in the case of newspaper deliveries or any other case determined by regulation of the Government, in particular for certain categories of artists.6 Obligation to ensure that the child can be at home between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., except in the case of a child no longer subject to compulsory school attendance or in the cases, circumstances or periods or under the conditions determined by regulation of the Government.7 In addition, note that certain regulations adopted under the Act respecting occupational health and safety stipulate a minimum age for performing certain tasks (e.g., diving, excavation, demolition, etc.). AMENDMENTS PROPOSED BY THE BILL Amendments to the Act respecting labour standards and the Regulation respecting labour standards Minimum age to perform work: 14 years of age, except as provided in the Regulation: Creator or performer in a field of artistic endeavour referred to in the first paragraph of section 1 of the Act respecting the professional status of artists in the visual arts, film, the recording arts, literature, arts and crafts and the performing arts; Deliverer of newspapers or other publications; Babysitter; Child who provides homework assistance or tutoring; Child working in a family enterprise with fewer than 10 employees if the child is a child of the employer or, where the latter is a legal person or partnership, a child of a director of that legal person or of a partner of that partnership, or if the child is a child of the spouse of one of those persons; Child working in a non-profit organization having social or community purposes, such as a vacation camp or recreational organization; and Child working in a non-profit sports organization to assist another person or provide support, such as an assistant instructor, assistant coach or scorekeeper. Note that for the application of each exception, the employer will have to obtain the consent of the holder of parental authority using the form established by the CNESST. In addition, with respect to the last three exceptions above (5) through (7), such children must work under the supervision of a person 18 years of age or over at all times. Maximum hours: 17 hours per week, including a maximum of 10 hours Monday through Friday for children subject to compulsory school attendance, except during periods of more than seven consecutive days without educational services offered to the child. This new labour standard would come into force on September 1, 2023. Notice of termination of employment: No later than 30 days after the Act respecting the regulation of work by children is assented to, an employer who employs a child under 14 years of age performing work that is now prohibited must send the child a notice of termination of employment. The length of the notice varies depending on the child’s years of service: - Three months to less than one year of uninterrupted service: one week’s notice - One to two years of uninterrupted service: two weeks’ notice - Two years or more of uninterrupted service: three weeks’ notice The employer may have the child perform work during the period of notice or pay the child a compensatory indemnity. Penalties: An employer who fails to abide by the provisions governing the work of children commits an offence and is liable to a fine under the Act respecting labour standards. Fines are doubled in the event of a repeat offence. Amendments to the Act respecting occupational health and safety The Bill also amends provisions of the Act respecting occupational health and safety that are already being amended by the Act to modernize the occupational health and safety regime, not all of which are currently in force. The amendments made by the Bill include the following: Prevention program: The program must include the identification and analysis of risks that may affect in particular the health and safety of workers in the establishment, but more specifically those affecting workers who are 16 years of age or under. The same applies to establishments subject to the obligation to develop an action plan. Health and Safety Committee: The committee’s functions include participating in the identification and analysis of risks that may affect in particular the health and safety of workers in the establishment, including those that may particularly affect workers who are 16 years of age or under. Health and safety representative and health and safety liaison officer: They identify situations that may be hazardous to workers, including those specific to workers who are 16 years of age and under, and make recommendations to the Health and Safety Committee, the employer and the union, if any, regarding tasks that should not be performed by workers 16 years of age or under. In conclusion, the Bill provides for more restrictive provisions regarding the supervision of work of children by setting the minimum working age, with certain exceptions, at 14 years of age and by limiting the working week of a child subject to the obligation to attend school to 17 hours. While awaiting the next steps of the study of the Bill in the National Assembly, we suggest that employers follow this matter closely and draw up a list of their employees who are 14 years or under in order to react quickly if the Bill is adopted, as the proposed amendments are likely to have a significant impact on work schedules and the available workforce in certain businesses. The Minister of Labour has indicated that he would like the Bill to come into force by the summer of 2023. CQLR, c. N-1.1 (the “Act”). Section 84.2 of the Act. Section 84.4 of the Act. Section 14 of the Education Act, CQLR, c. I-13.3. Section 84.5 of the Act. Section 84.6 of the Act and Section 35.1 of the Regulation respecting labour standards, RLRQ, c. N-1.1, r. 3 (the “Regulation”). Section 84.7 of the Act and Section 35.2 of the Regulation.