Quebec has recently adopted legislation regulating the employment of children. The Act respecting the regulation of work by children (the "Act") has resulted in important amendments to Quebec's Act respecting labour standards and its regulations, as well as the Act respecting occupational health and safety, which are discussed in this article.
Most notably, Quebec has now established 14 years as the minimum working age. Prior to the adoption of the Act, the province of Quebec had not established a minimum working age, although legislation did provide for certain modalities surrounding work performed by children, including the obligation to obtain written consent from a parent or guardian ensuring that children were performing work within their capacities which would not impede their education, well-being or moral development, in addition to outlining certain parameters regarding hours of work for school-aged children.
While the restrictions noted above continue to exist under Quebec law, since the adoption of the Act on June 1, 2023, children under the age of 14 can no longer work in Quebec, subject to very limited exceptions. Such exceptions include:
- children working as creators or performers in a field of artistic endeavour;
- deliverers of newspapers or other publications;
- children who provide homework assistance or tutoring;
- children working in a family enterprise employing fewer than ten employees if the child is the child of the employer, director or partner of the legal person or partnership, or if the child is a child of the spouse of one of those persons;
- a child working in a non-profit organization having social or community purposes (including a vacation camp or recreational organization); and
- a child working in a non-profit sports organization (including as an instructor, assistant coach or scorekeeper).
In these cases, parent or guardian approval remains a requirement and is subject to the completion of a prescribed form issued by the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail.
Further amendments resulting from the enactment of the Act came into effect on September 1, 2023. These amendments have placed additional restrictions on the hours of work for children who are subject to compulsory school attendance. Pursuant to applicable law, all children residing in Quebec must attend school from the first day of the school calendar in the school year following that in which they turn six years old until the last day of the school calendar in the school year during which they turn 16 years old or at the end of which they obtain a diploma awarded by the Minister, whichever comes first. In particular, employers are not allowed to employ such children for more than 17 hours per week, with a maximum of ten working hours per week during weekdays (Monday to Friday). However, these restrictions do not apply in situations where there is a period of seven consecutive days during which the child is not offered any educational services, such as during the summer school closure.
Failure to respect these provisions exposes employers to fines of $600 to $6,000 for a first offence and fines of $1,200 to $12,000, for subsequent convictions.
An additional factor supporting the adoption of the Act by the Quebec legislator was a notable rise in the number of workplace accidents involving minors. Consequently, employers who employ children are also required to adopt an accident prevention program which specifically considers risks particular to minors under the age of 16. For more information regarding the adoption of prevention programs in Quebec, please refer to our previous article on this topic.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.