What the Act says

The Act respecting labour standards contains certain provisions concerning the work performed by children.

The notion of a child

Within the meaning of the Act respecting labour standards, a child is a person under 18 years of age. Depending on the child’s age, the Act includes specific provisions concerning the type of work that the child can perform and the period during which he can perform it. A child cannot work during school hours if he:

  • is under 16 years of age and does not have his high school diploma from the Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport (MELS)
  • is 16 years of age during the school year. In this case, under the Education Act, he must attend school until the last day of the school year.

For example, a child who turned 16 while in Secondary IV and who is now in Secondary V can hold a job during school hours. He has not been under the obligation to attend school since the last day of the school calendar of the previous year.

When an employer wishes to have work done by a child under 14, he must obtain written authorization from one of the child’s parents or his tutor.

Prohibitions concerning the employer

An employer cannot have a child do work that exceeds his capacity or that risks:

  • compromising his education
  • adversely affecting his health or physical or moral development.

Nor can an employer have a child work at night, namely between 11 p.m. of a given day and 6 a.m. on the following day, unless the child is no longer required to attend school or if the work consists of:

  • delivering newspapers
  • creating or performing works in one of the following artistic fields: performing arts including theatre, lyric theatre, music, dance and varieties, films, records and the other methods of sound recording, dubbing and the recording of commercials.

Employer’s obligations

In addition to complying with the aforementioned prohibitions, the employer is required to keep, for a period of three years, the written consent of the parent or of the tutor of the child under 14 years of age in the register of his enterprise. An employer who has work done by a child required to attend school must make sure that his working hours do not prevent the child from attending school during school hours.

An employer who has work done by a child must take into account his place of residence and make sure that his working hours allow him to be at home between 11 p.m. on a given day and 6 a.m. the next morning. However, this requirement does not apply if the child is no longer obliged to attend school or in the various cases, circumstances, periods or conditions determined by regulation.

The employer is also relieved of this requirement when the child works:

  • as a creator or performer in the performing arts field including  theatre, lyric theatre, music, dance and varieties, films, records and the other methods of sound recording, dubbing and the recording of commercials
  • for a social or community organization, such as a vacation camp or a recreational organization, if the child’s conditions of employment require that he stay at his employer’s establishment and if he is not required to attend school on the following day.

Conditions that must be met to have work performed by a child

Frequently asked questions

  1. I am 15 years old and I occasionally babysit my neighbour’s children on weekends. She usually gets home at around 2 a.m. Does she have the right to make me work so late and am I entitled to the minimum wage?
    The Act does not apply to babysitters who perform this work occasionally. As a result, you are not entitled to the minimum wage and you may work until 2 a.m.

  2. I will turn 13 this summer and I want to work picking strawberries. May I do so?
    Yes, provided that your parents give your employer a written authorization.

  3. Our neighbour has a candy wrapping business. He has asked my 13-year-old son to work for him every Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Does my child have the right to work at his age?
    Yes, your son has the right to work, provided that you give his employer an authorization containing your son’s name, his age and your signature.

  4. The local convenience store posted a job opening for 2 nights a week from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.  I am still in school but I turned 16 this year. What’s more, the work schedule would suit me perfectly since I don’t have school the next day. Yet the owner of the convenience store refuses to hire me. Why?
    Even if you are 16, you do not have the right to work nights as long as you attend school. Beginning on the last day of the school calendar, you will be able to work at the convenience store.

  5. To deliver newspapers before going to school, I have to start at 5:30 in the morning. But on the web site of the Commission des normes du travail I saw that I do not have the right to work between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. What should I do?
    There is an exception in the Act respecting labour standards for children who deliver newspapers. As a result, there is no problem even if you start at 5:30 in the morning.

  6. One month ago, I bought La bonne bouffe restaurant. I kept all of the existing staff. Last week, I told the employees that I would be making changes to the work schedule. One of the dishwashers is 16 and still attends school. The previous owner allowed him to leave at 10:30 p.m. to be at home by 11 p.m. Is this arrangement in compliance with the Act respecting labour standards?
    Yes. You have the right to have work done in the evening by a child who attends school if, taking into account his place of residence, you allow him to leave in time to be at home at 11 p.m.

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