Field preparation in Delta. Farmers depend on seasonal work to tend and harvest crops. (Black Press files)

Kids under 16 can keep working for now, B.C. labour minister says

Opposition questions impact on agricultural, co-op jobs

First in a series on changes coming to B.C. labour laws.

Kids under 16 can keep earning “pocket money” while the B.C. government works out regulations to restrict their paid work, Labour Minister Harry Bains says.

Bains said the minimum age for formal work is going up from 12 to 16, except for “light work” that isn’t hazardous, including chores and traditional work like delivering newspapers. He later clarified that there is more consultation needed before it is finalized.

“We will be devising regulations, and that will take some time,” Bains said. “In the meantime they will continue to work. Then we will be consulting to see if they are actually in dangerous occupations, and how do we give the employer some opportunity to get used to what the new regulations are.”

Farm operations and educational co-ops are concerned about new restrictions on youth work announced this week by Bains, as part of his update of the Labour Relations Code, says B.C. Liberal labour critic John Martin, MLA for Chilliwack.

“I’ve already got some emails from people involved in co-op education, youth 15 years old gaining a foothold in their employment career working in greenhouses and other parts of the agriculture sector,” Martin said. “They’re wondering if they’re going to continue that relationship between schools and employers in various parts of the province.”

Ken Peacock, chief economist at the Business Council of B.C., said in an interview he supports greater restrictions on work for young people. The council’s submission to the B.C. Law Institute’s three-year study of employment standards was in line with the changes in that area, he said.

“I’m hearing there are some challenges and concerns in the agricultural sector, but it’s not intended to limit children working in family businesses,” Peacock said.

The business group is expecting further changes to employment standards in the future, dealing with more sensitive areas such as hours of work, overtime and the status of contractors and part-time workers who don’t have employer-supported benefits.

READ MORE: NDP keeps secret ballot vote for union certifications

READ MORE: B.C. prepares to move on labour, employment rules

“One thing we are definitely concerned about is the cumulative impact of all these things. The employment standards, a few pieces of the labour code, business probably can absorb that,” Peacock said.

“But you’ve got changes on both those fronts in terms of labour legislation and the regulations, and then you’ve the employer health tax, the minimum wage going up last year, slated to go up again in June of this year, you’ve got Canada Pension Plan deductions increasing at the federal level. You start adding all these things up and you do wonder whether that’s going to have a dampening impact on job creation and employment, and whether people will opt for contracting arrangements rather than secure employment arrangements.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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